Category Archives: Games for Kids

Bugs in The Kitchen: A game that’s light on the strategy but heavy on the fun


By: Jeff Bakalchuck

Games, like ice cream, come in lots of “flavors”. I’ve often remarked that there is a reason why Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors and not two. We don’t all like the same flavors and sometimes we aren’t in the mood for a flavor we normally love. You’re probably wondering about all this ice cream analysis and thinking Boomer has finally cracked up. Maybe not. Ravensburger is a game company that publishes some of my favorite strategy games, such as Puerto Rico and Princes of Florence. Along comes Bugs in the Kitchen, which is about as opposite of those two games as you can get. It’s not a game with much strategy, but it’s a blast. It’s especially fun for the under eight crowd or adults that like to act like that crowd.

Game Concept:

It’s a simple idea. Take a game board and divide it into sections using plastic levers, shaped liked silverware, that allow you to create a maze of passageways. Place traps at each corner, one for each player. Add a special edition, black and orange colored, HexBug Nano. One that’s styled to look like that dreaded insect we don’t want in our kitchen. Then let the players move those levers in an attempt to trap that normally unwanted visitor and presto instant fun. Unless you are like my wife and terrified of those bugs. She’s so terrified of them, that I’m not allowed to name them. Here’s a hint, the Spanish edition of the game is titled “La Cucaracha”.

Game Play:

The game starts by setting the levers to one of three starting configuration and placing la cucaracha in the center. The youngest player goes first by rolling the die. The die has a spoon, a fork, a knife and three question marks. You then get to turn a lever that corresponds to the die roll. If you roll a question mark you can move any lever. The goal is to get the little bugger into your trap. Of course, all the while, the bug is dancing around, bouncing off walls and changing direction. Most player are tempted to try and wait for the bug to get into the right position before turning a lever. The rules even state: “If a player takes too long, the other players can tell them to hurry up”. There is something wonderful about any game that has a rule that allows you to say “Make a move already, I’m not getting any younger here”. When the bug lands in your trap, you get a chip. The first player to amass five chips wins. A typical game will last about 10 minutes.

What it isn’t:

This isn’t a game about strategy. The maze is small, so there isn’t time to an elaborate pattern. Usually after the second player has gone, the bug will have a path to one or more traps. It isn’t a game where you should be over-analyzing you moves. The bugs isn’t very predictable in its movement.

What it is:

Silly Fun. It reminds me of the silly and really fun games of the my childhood. Games like “Hang on Harvey” and “Time Bomb”. It’s a game that’s best played quickly. It’s a game that needs a shot clock. If you have an egg timer even better. Set the timer and start the game, if the timer goes off during your turn then you lose your turn. This forces players to move fast.

It’s a Target exclusive, so if you want a copy head to your local Target. Of course

I can do that, can you?

catGenerally when I see a new game that is based on a licensed product my hopes don’t run high. Far too often US game companies just license a book, TV show or movie then grab some bad game design sitting on the shelf and presto they have a game. What they’re selling isn’t a game but a name. This is especially true for children’s games. Maybe these game companies think that if the child likes the theme it doesn’t matter if the game is terrible.

When I can Do That games sent me their “Cat in the Hat” game I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was the game play creative, the theme was great and the theme fit the game. It was true to the spirit of Dr Suess books, it was fun. It is also an activity game that gets the kids moving.

The game play is simple and can be learned in about 2 minutes. Setup takes another 2 minutes. The components are made from thick foam and look very durable. In addition the pieces are large enough not to be a safety issue with small children. The game is about encouraging children to try things and thus build self-confidence.

On each turn players draw a red, blue and yellow card. If any of their cards say stop, their turn is over immediately. If none of the cards are stop cards then they get a chance to do an activity and earn stars. The red card gives the basic activity such as “Jump three times”, the blue card names an object from the game such as “The Fish” or “The Ball” and finally the yellow card tells how you must hold the object, such as “Under your chin” or “on your head”. The player then decides if they can do that activity. If they try it and succeed they get to keep the 3 cards. If they don’t think they can do it, they get to draw new cards and as long as they are not Stop cards, they can try the new activity. The cards have blue stars on them, the more challenging the card the more stars. The player with the most stars wins.

The activities aren’t too easy nor are they too difficult and the rules have a note to parents about customizing the rules to fit the abilities of the children. The box says ages 4-8, however it will be fine with younger children as well.

It’s a truly great children’s game. It’s fun, creative and helps build confidence.

Highly Recommended

Catch the Match: Another gem from Reinhard Staupe

catchA few weeks ago, I wrote a review of Sherlock by Reinhard Staupe. Staupe is one of the top game designers in the business. Catch the Match from Playroom Entertainment is another example of why I think so highly of his work.

Game Overview:

The game consists of 15 cards. On each card is 15 different objects. All objects are shown in two different colors. Each card has the same 15 objects, but they are organized such that any two cards have one, and only one, object that is exactly the same. Players race to find this matching pair.

Game Play:

Shuffle the 15 cards and stack them face down. Take any two cards and turn them face up in the center of the play area. All players play at the same time. They check the two cards to find the one and only match. When you think you have found it, call out the name of the object. Point to the object to show the other players. If you are correct you take one of the two cards and turn it face down in front of you. If you are incorrect then you are out for this round and the other players continue to look for the match. The game ends when only one card is remaining.

That sounds simple doesn’t it? What makes it fun and, at times frustrating, is object are rotated differently on each card and appear in different locations. Racing against the other players, it’s a real challenge to find that match quickly.

The objects are all items that young children will be able to identify. The cards are over-sized, making it easy for little fingers to handle. They are also extra thick. Which means they will hold up well over time from the abuse those little fingers can dish out.

It may seem like having only 15 cards would limit the number of times you could play the game before you would get to know the cards too well for it to still be a challenge. Don’t worry, since the objects are scrambled and rotated, Catch the Match will remain challenging and fun no matter how many times you play it.

Other games have copied Staupe’s design of having one and only one matching item on any two cards. That doesn’t mean those games aren’t worth buying. What it does mean is that Staupe deserves high praise for the original idea. With thousands of games having been published over the years, it isn’t easy to invent one with a totally new concept.

Highly Recommended.

Sherlock: A masterpiece from Reinhard Staupe


If you are like most game buyers in the United States it is unlikely that you have ever heard the name Reinhard Staupe. That is a shame since he might just be the greatest designer of games for children. Fortunately, the folks at Playroom Entertainment are not only familiar with Staupe, they are big fans of his. Playroom publishes a wide range of his games for the US market. What makes his games so good?

  • Simple rules. It shouldn’t take you more than 60 seconds to learn how to play.
  • No words on the cards, only simple but engaging graphics.
  • Fun for both children and adults.
  • Easy enough for children to play competitively with adults.

I plan on reviewing a number of his games in the next few months. Since Sherlock is my favorite Staupe game let’s start there.

Game Overview:
A series of eight “Clue” cards are placed in a circle. Players need to remember the card in each location. After 30 seconds the cards are turned face down. The tricky part is the clues change during the game, as players collect them. Be the first player to collect six clues and you win.

Game Play:
Each card has a picture of a common everyday object. Things such as foods, clothing, animals and household objects. The cards also have a number between one and four along with an arrow indicating the direction that Sherlock moves. When it’s your turn, the player to your right places the Sherlock card next to any of the face down cards. You must then say what the object on that card is. The card is turned face up. If you are incorrect then your turn is over. All face up cards are turned over and the next player goes. If you are correct, then Sherlock is moved in the direction of the arrow the number of cards indicated by the number next to the arrow. You then need to remember what is on the card next to Sherlock. As long as you correctly identify the card, Sherlock moves and you keep guessing. If Sherlock is moved back to card that is already face up then you get that card. A new card is drawn from the deck to replace it, the cards are turned face down and the next player goes.

A typical game takes about 20 minutes. If you want a more challenging game then start with 12 cards on the table instead of 8. If you want to really make things challenging then add a rule that the player must also mention the color of the object as well. That’s one of the things I like most about Reinhard Staupe’s games. You can easily make it the game easier or more difficult.

The box says for ages 5 and up. With younger children you might need to remove the cards that have pictures of object they aren’t familiar with. Since the game comes with 49 clue cards, you can easily remove the few that your younger players don’t know.

Highly Recommended.