Why this #boardgame family digs Dig Dog Dig (@FlyingMeeple, 2019) – and why your family should too!

WITH THE RETURN TO SCHOOL IN OUR AREA BEING ALL ONLINE, it came time to look to add a few children’s games to the RockyMountainNavy gaming shelves. This is because Mrs. RMN helps teach/care for several kids of her friends. Unlike the RMN Boys (youngest being 15) all her students are elementary-school age. Mrs. RMN also believes in the power of boardgaming as a needed escape from online classes. Somewhere I had seen Dig Dog Dig (Flying Meeple, 2019) so when the opportunity to purchase it presented itself I seized the moment.

Buying Dig Dog Dig was one of the best gaming purchases decisions I made this year to date. At least, that’s what Mrs. RMN says. [Pro boardgaming tip – if Wife approves then pay attention!]

Dig Dog Dig is a memory game. The theme of the game is that several dogs buried their toys in the yard and have to find them. Each hole in the yard is covered with a slotted tile. At the beginning of the game, players take turns hiding the toys of other dogs in the holes. Then players take turns moving their dog around the yard. They go from hole to hole and search. When the dogs search, they lift the cover of the space they are on and look to see what is underneath. If they find one of their toys they keep it. If they find another dog’s toys, they get to rehide it in that same row. If the hole only has your toys in it or is empty, the cover is removed from the game and all players can see that the hole is empty and will stay that way. Play continues until one dog finds all five of their toys.

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Courtesy Flying Meeple

We played Dig Dog Dig with the youngest of Mrs. RMN’s students, Little Miss A. Miss A is not a gamer although she has played Animal Upon Animal (Haba, 2005) and Unicorn Glitterluck: Cloud Stacking (Haba, 2019). She likes both those games, but fine dexterity is not a strong trait so Animal Upon Animal can be hard and she doesn’t really grok the strategy behind Unicorn Glitterluck.

Even before we opened the Dig Dog Dig box, Miss A was intrigued. In great part this was because of not only the colorful cover art, but the fact that she, as an emergent reader working on her sight words, could read the title by herself! Dig. Dog. Dig. I cannot overstate how important that connection is; from the moment she looked at the game it was a game for her! 

Second is the cute dog figures in Dig Dog Dig. The simple 3-d designs are easily recognizable, even by Miss A (who loves dogs). First game she just had to be the Husky!

The simple, quick gameplay of Dig Dog Dig also sold the game to her. As Mrs. RMN pointed out to me, gameplay requires absolutely no reading. It is also very intoxicating to search a hole, find your stuff, and then get to rehide others toys. Even the simple act of rehiding toys by dropping them like coins into a piggy bank is exciting, especially as you always do a double-take to make sure the owner of the toys is not cheating with barely closed eyes.

Like another children’s game we recently acquired, Mrs. RMN insisted that I give Dig Dog Dig a very high rating on BoardGameGeek. She insisted on rating the game not by what an adult thinks about it, but by what playing with a child is. I too enjoyed the game, although I will say that three-players is probably the best player count. At four-players the 12-space board feels awfully crowded!

Like Dragonimo, Mrs. RMN has ordered me to search out additional copies. I don’t know how many copies of Dig Dog Dig Flying Meeple published, but finding copies is a bit of a challenge. That’s too bad; Dig Dog Dig deserves a much wider audience as it is one of the few legitimately good games for younger children – and their parent’s too!


[Warning – Rant Follows: In researching this game, I made the mistake of looking at Tom Vassel’s Dice Tower review. Do yourself a favor – DON’T! I’m not even going to link it here because the condescending tone of voice so angers me. Hey, Tom! Remember those days you were a good family game reviewer? You have become such a game snob you can’t enjoy the simple pleasure of playing a game with a child. I would say that’s sad but your attitude is so offensive I have no empathy whatsoever for you.]

New Young King of the #Boardgame Dragons – Dragomino (@BlueOrangeGames, 2020)

LIKE MANY GAMERS, I too felt the cancellation of this seasons gaming conventions was a bit disheartening. Not that I attend many gaming conventions; instead I look forward to all the new titles. Fortunately, Gen Con Online had a special storefront offering new titles. It was there that I picked up Dragomino (Blue Orange Games, 2020). This title has quickly become a favorite amongst the younger gamers associated with the RockyMountainNavy family. Just as importantly, Dragomino earned the highest approval of Mrs. RMN herself.

Dragomino bills itself as, “My First Kingdomino.” Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017) is a true RMN Family favorite. That easy to play, easy to teach, and just-the-right-challenge game proudly sits on our shelf. As a family have gifted around 10 copies of the game by now as it is the perfect gift for a family just starting hobby gaming, and especially if they have younger (elementary school-age) kids. Which made me a bit dubious; Kingdomino is already very playable by younger gamers. What could you do to make a “My First Kingdomino” game?

Dragonimo answers that question with a game that keeps the very traditional domino-tile terrain of Kingdomino but changes up the rules. Instead of a starting single-space territory, Dragomino players start with a two-space domino. The usual ‘draw four tiles and place them face-up’ stays, but the numbered backs are gone. Now, turn order is determined by who hold the “Mother Dragon.” Players take turns selecting one of the face-up tiles and adding it to their territory. Every edge that connects alike territories allows the player to draw an egg of that territory’s color. On the back of the egg is either a baby dragon or a cracked egg. Baby dragons are worth points at the end of the game; a cracked egg means you get the “Mother Dragon” and will be first player in the next turn.

That’s it.

Well, there is a bit more. Sharp-eyed parents will note that some territories have more eggs. The rules tell you that each color has seven baby dragons. The odds of finding a dragon are much better with the few red Lava tiles than with the numerous yellow Desert tiles. But that’s about as complex the hidden strategy gets.

We introduced Dragomino to Mrs. RMN’s students. They are all girls and range in age from 6 to 10 years old. The youngest liked the baby dragons and had to see each one drawn. Of the three, she had the hardest time to ‘grok’ the game but she is a good jigsaw puzzler and quickly caught on. The other two likewise loved the artwork and both also enjoyed the quick-play nature of the game which allows for multiple plays. Indeed, we couldn’t get the 8 year old to stop playing! Even RockyMountainNavy Jr. (a junior in High School and ‘King’ of Kingdomino in our house) expressed his pleasure from playing the game.

Most important though are the thoughts of Mrs. RMN. As an educator, she believes in the power of gaming for social growth in children. As a mother she has also seen good, and some not-so-good, games. Dragomino hits a real sweet spot for her needs; the artwork and theme draws the kids in, the rules are easy to teach, and gameplay is quick and simple. There is no reading required and end-game scoring calls for simple math (counting to less than 10 and easy use of “more than” or “less than” concepts). After a day filled with multiple Dragonimo games, I went to rate it on BoardGameGeek. I asked Mrs. RMN what she thought. Without hesitation she wanted to give it the highest rating. She strongly believes that there are actually few games out there really suitable for younger games, and Dragonimo is one of the best of those few. She added that, like RMN Jr., this is a game that adults will not tire of when playing with their kids.

So this weekend I had to order several additional copies of Dragonimo so Mrs. RMN can add them to her gaming gift kitty. I have a feeling that Dragonimo, like Kingdomino, is going to become a gaming gift staple for a good while to come.

A little girls #boardgame (and that’s a good thing) – Unicorn Glitterluck: Cloud Stacking (@HABA_usa, 2019)

MRS. ROCKYMOUNTAINNAVY leaned in to help a friend this summer, meaning that we quite literally had a 5-year old little girl running around Casa RockyMountainNavy many days. With school back in session, Mrs. RMN wanted to give her a present. Naturally, she turned to me and asked for boardgame suggestions. I recommended Unicorn Glitterluck: Cloud Stacking (HABA, 2019). Little Ms. A played the game and she, her mother, and Mrs. RMN all give it a giant 5 UNICORNS!

Although our kids are older, Mrs. RMN tutors younger ones meaning we have a collection of children’s games on hand. These include perennial favorites from HABA like Rhino Hero (2016) and Animal Upon Animal (2005). Little Ms. A only plays boardgames when she is at our house so she has lots to learn. She has played Animal Upon Animal and liked it, but we (OK, me…) was looking for something similar yet different. Unicorn Glitterluck: Cloud Stacking combines both a dexterity and cooperative game into one. Perfect for small children. Don’t believe me? Check out this video from Game Trade Media filmed at Origins Games Fair 2019 for a great explanation of the game and example of play.

We played Unicorn Glitterluck: Cloud Stacking with Little Ms. A today. Actually, we played three times. We won all three games (although one was really close) and Little Ms. A really enjoyed it. She still needs to be guided (she occasionally throws the die instead of rolling it) but she caught on quickly. Mrs. RMN declared we are going to purchase at least two more copies (one for another student and one for our collection) because it takes the best of Animal Upon Animal and adds the cooperative play element. She also points out that the pink box is key.

Huh?

Courtesy BGG

OK, we all need to stop adulting for a minute and remember that Mrs. RMN wants these games for young girls. Little girls that Want to be little girls and don’t understand anything about gender neutrality packaging. Sure, they like the yellow HABA boxes but Little Ms A was very proud to show the box to her mother and proclaim, “Look! A girl’s game!”

To be clear, HABA does not market any of their Unicorn Glitterdrift games specifically towards girls. Even so, the pink box and colorful unicorns screams this is a “girls game.” So, am I evil to allow this sort of gender gaming? Too bad; the game is great and if it helps bring a little girl into the hobby then so be it. More importantly, Little Ms. A also sees the RMN Boys playing the game with her. If they don’t want to play a game because “it’s for girls” THEN we have a problem. But they don’t, and Little Ms. A earns not only a sense of ownership (“Let’s play MY game”) but also a reason to keep playing in the hobby. We can worry about gender neutral games later.

In the meantime, I have a unicorn castle to build.


Feature image Unicorn Glitterluck: Cloud Stacking components courtesy BGG

Postscript: Kudos to HABA for providing a multi-lingual rulebook in this game. Surprisingly, one of the languages is Korean – the primary language of the families Mrs. RMN teaches. Little Ms A was tickled pink (pun intended) with the Korean title of the game which translates as “Twinkle, Twinkle Unicorn.” Yet another way she was able to connect to the game and find an inviting hobby waiting for her to explore.

Kids Gaming by an Old Grognard

Gulo Gulo Box
Courtesy BGG?

Although I have been a wargamer since 1979, it was not until the mid-2000s that I started into family gaming. At the time the youngest RockyMountainNavy spawn was just born and the oldest was 8 years old. We made some great purchases; games that are still favorites like Gulo Gulo or Chicken Cha Cha Cha or The Magic Labyrinth. As the RMN Kids grew up, we (logically) moved away from children’s games.

(Of minor interest, Gulo Gulo was the subject of one of my first-ever posts on this blog…waaaay back in 2007.)

This year, Mrs. RMN has started tutoring English to young kids. She is also a strong believer in tabletop games as great teaching tools. This means the rest of the RMN family is occasionally called upon to play a game with the youngsters. Currently, there are two main students, a kindergarten and 4th grader. Playing with these kids means we have pulled out the older games listed above but also means we we are on the lookout for new games too.

As a result, the RMN Household has been adding children’s games to our collection. This past year saw us add Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier which is really a reskinned version of the Board Game Geek #4 Children’s Game Ghostfightin’ Treasure Hunters. More recently, Ice Cool has entered the collection, and other family games that are well suited for kids, like Kingdomino, are getting played too. As a matter of fact, when I checked my BGG collection this morning I discovered that we actually have five of the top 25 Children’s Games. Similarly, we have 11 of the Top 100 Family Games. Not too bad for an Old Grognard!

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Playing Ice Cool from Brain Games Publishing

 

Being a Cool Kid – Playing #IceCool from @BrainGames_int

Ice Cool from Brain Games Publishing is the 2017 Kinderspiel Des Jahres winner. This is a simple dexterity (flicking) game of little penguins skating around a school. One player is “the catcher” – or hall monitor – while the others are “runners” – or students skating through the school. Every round, the Runners are trying to get through doorways and collect fish (scoring cards) while the Hall Monitor tries to take their hall pass away. A game ends after a number of rounds equal to the number of players and after each player has been the hall monitor once. Ice Cool is an excellent game that is equally fun for kids and adults.

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Courtesy Brain Games Publishing

The most innovative feature of Ice Cool is the “box-in-a-box” format. The game box is actually four boxes, each slightly smaller than the other, that are connected to make the game board. This gives the game a 3D effect of halls and walls. The players must flick their penguins which are plastic weighted tokens that fly around or through or even over the rooms, doors, and walls. Very simple and direct; perfect in fact for the 6+ crowd the game is marketed towards.

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Courtesy Brain Games Publishing

I bought Ice Cool because Mrs. RockyMountainNavy is teaching young kids English these days and often asks the RMN Boys (or myself) to play a game with the kids at the end of their lesson. She is a strong believer in the teaching power of tabletop games, especially the social aspects (communicate with others, take your turn, follow the rules) that video gaming so often lacks. This weekend, the RMN Boys and myself took the game for a test play. Ice Cool plays fast (20 min or less) and is fun. Flicking the penguins does take some finesse and patience; more than some youngsters may have. The same 3D walls that make the game look good can block bigger hands and make flicking difficult. There are rules allowing one to move the penguin away from the walls which may be enough.

Don’t let those (minor) negative points fool you; Ice Cool is a very fun family game. At first, we set up the game like we normally do on the dining table with all of us sitting around. Almost immediately we pushed back the chairs and found ourselves constantly moving around the table, treating the game box more like a pool table as we constantly jockeyed to get that perfect angle for our shot. There were many laughs and good natured ribbing to be had.

Ice Cool will be a fun family filler game in the RMN Household and will be used with Mrs. RMN’s students with great effect. It is almost impossible not to enjoy this fun flick-em-up game with such a cute theme and simple game play.

Featured image courtesy Brain Games Publishing.