After the recent birth of our beautiful third son, I’m finding myself remembering all those little things you forget about babies once your kids are older.
Ezra and baby Simeon
The comforting smell of their tiny heads… The warm sensation of freshly-voided urine on your hands… The constant question of how much vomit on your clothing is socially acceptable…
Well, one of the great things about babies like our little Simeon is that whilst they don’t really do anything at all, you could spend hours just … looking at them!
So in honour of the fascinating and enigmatic Simeon, let’s take a look at a game that doesn’t really do anything and see if it has a similar effect!
What is Snail’s Pace Race?
Well, it’s not really a game, but more of an activity for 2-6 players, with the box suggesting ages 3-7 as being most suitable.
There are 6 snail meeples on the board, each of a different colour and players take turns to roll 2 six-sided dice with coloured faces. Every time a colour comes up, that ‘sneeple’ moves forward one space and you take turns to roll until all the snails have crossed the finish line.
Once the sneeples have set off on their merry way, the players “try to guess who will win” and also who will come last. And that, believe it or not, is the game. Let’s try and casually guess the outcome of a randomly-generated event without anyone actually committing to a colour in any tangible way.
What’s in the box?
6 chunky sneeples, 2 six-sided dice with coloured faces, 1 rulebook (our charity shop copy was missing this) and 1 folded game board
How did the kids find it?
*Note: as a trial, this section is no longer solely focused on Ezra’s enjoyment, but it also includes wildly speculative estimations as to how it might suit other age children (see last week’s post for more on this), based on my experience of working with young people but I should stress, not from playing it with any children apart from my own…*
Well, Ezra (nearly 4) and Eli (2.5) did enjoy themselves. There is something strangely satisfying about watching six snails jostle for position over the course of the race and you do get a thrill from seeing the underdog overturn an unthinkable deficit to snatch a glorious victory (orange pushed green all the way)…
Epic comeback by orange wasn’t quite enough for the win…
It is true, though, that Ezra became distracted after a single play through, preferring to physically race them himself the second time round in real time. Whilst many other children will have a longer attention span than Ez, I do think the lack of depth can be a bit of a problem in terms of replayability even at age 4.
And Eli – whilst enjoying rolling the dice and getting some good colour practice in – struggled a little with moving 2 different snails each time he rolled. This is easily remedied by just rolling one die at a time but this takes away some of that ‘underdog’ factor when a snail suddenly jumps in to the lead.
The other concern for children under 3 was that the dice are quite small (and certainly not baby-safe), which is a real shame for a game could otherwise function reasonably as a good gateway game for a 2-year-old…
As for the game’s stated age bracket of 4-7, I think without house rules to add complexity (and with a disclaimer re: safety for under-3s), I’d put it more in the 2-5 age range. I don’t think there’s enough here for a 7-year-old.
Ezra’s score (aged 4ish)- 13/25
Eli’s score (aged 2.5) – 15/25
Note: wildly speculative estimations over age 4
What about Daddy Snail?
Well it’s clear from the outset here that this is an utterly dull activity which equates to predicting the outcome of a die roll…
So all the parent enjoyment without house rules comes from the joy of seeing your children play a game & practise identifying colours…
And yet, there’s quite an interesting thing going on here mathematically which lends itself to some house rules for adults or older children…
- First, find a coloured marker (or make one) for each of the 6 coloured snails and leave these at one end of the board.
- Everyone starts with 10 money tokens (£10, let’s say).
- At the end of the race, money is awarded to players based on the ranking of the snails equivalent to any tokens they are holding as follows :
- 1st place – £12
- 2nd place – £9
- 3rd place – £6
- 4th place – £4
- 5th place – £2
- 6th place – £0
- In order to initially pick up a token, you have to pay the same amount of money as there are tokens yet to be claimed (ie £6 if it’s the first token, £5 if it’s the second etc). You are then free to buy and sell tokens from each other until the end of the race. The amount of money reach player has is kept secret until the end. Whoever ends up with the most money after 3 races wins!
Suddenly, this transforms in to an interesting economic game for adults about estimating the value of each snail at any point in time and carefully buying and selling at the right times to make a tidy profit…
Parental enjoyment – 2/25 (normal rules) ; 14/25 (BIG house rules)
Overarching Principles Of Gaming
Now the game as published teaches virtually nothing to the budding gamer. Yes, it gives colour practice and the chance to take turns.
In fact, I also disagree with the whole premise of a game designed to have no winner (apparently, judging by the box blurb, to avoid any children getting upset). One of the reasons I think it’s great to play games with your children is that they are a great opportunity for exactly the opposite – to learn how to lose honourably in a safe environment.
Even at age 2, there is more that can be done to develop young gamers (see our First Orchard review for an example), but certainly above age 4, there is very little your child will learn playing this game and I imagine there aren’t many children aged over 5 who would suggest playing this game above another more decision-heavy title…
Unless of course you use the BIG rules variant and make it a sociable economic game, in which case they’ll learn about negotiation, how to manage probability/risk and estimation of expected value!
OPG (aged 4ish) – 3/25
OPG (aged 2.5) – 6/25
The other stuff
Cost – 5/5
£1.99 from a charity shop can’t be beaten really & it’ll be available for a similar price almost everywhere I imagine.
Theme – 4/5
Having initially mocked the theme openly as being incredibly dull, there’s a large part of me that hopes it’s been deliberately chosen as part of a meta-narrative mocking the majority of young children’s games for being so utterly boring…
And the kids do also seem to love the idea of snails racing, strange folk that they are…
The theme is at best a clever commentary on the state of children’s games and at worst appropriately ridiculous.
Art and design – 2/5
It’s hard looking at a game from 15 years ago and comparing it with today’s production values…
There is some nice thematic art around the edge of the board and on the box cover to be fair.
Components – 3/5
The sneeples are brilliant – wooden, painted, baby-safe. Unfortunately, the dice are too small to be safe for babies which as I said earlier is a massive opportunity missed. Plus, the box insert hasn’t lasted the course (although this copy was printed in 2002 so it has been a while…).
Rulebook – 3/5
I haven’t actually managed to find a picture of the rulebook & I imagine 3/5 is generous, but let’s give it the benefit of the doubt, eh? It’s Easter after all.
The other stuff – 17/25
Snail’s Pace Race is an enjoyable activity for really young children that helps them practice colours and taking turns, but there is little to offer beyond the age of 4 and the lack of baby-safe dice limits its potential role as a gateway game for the under-3s, leaving it with very little appeal for us.
Then again, the sneeples are pretty awesome and it’ll only cost you a couple of quid!
Total score (aged 4ish) – 35 (or 47 with BIG rules variant)
Total score (aged 2.5) – 40 (or 52 with BIG rules variant)
Ridiculous uninterpretable graph to finish…?
Thoughts? Comments? Best urine and vomit stories…? Post in the comments if you like.
Next time it’s a big ‘un – Rhino Hero