OK, so the Animal Games Kickstarter was officially cancelled way back in August – “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” (read ‘sympathetic crowd at the theatre’ rather than ‘petrified screaming child…’) and is now marinaded and roasting gently on the proverbial back burner where it will remain for another year or so.
And yet, the world has not stopped turning… Eli continues to churn out nappies so incredibly offensive that several passers-by have hammered on our door seeking shelter, convinced that the world is about to end… Ezra continues to correctly hone in on the logical inconsistencies in our evolving disciplinary strategies… And I will continue to propagate the flawed notion that the boys are in fact “sleeping better”…
So let’s move on, stop feeling sorry for ourselves and get back to having a look at some games for young children!
Did it ever occur to you that some nursery rhymes are a little ridiculous…?
Scout: “Sire, sire! You must send help at once!”
Head of the King’s Guard: “What new tragedy darkens our door this day?”
Scout: “It’s Humpty Dumpty sire… He has suffered a great fall… His very life hangs in the balance…”
Head of the King’s Guard: “Send the Kings horses.”
Scout: “I will summon the knights immediately.”
Head of the King’s Guard: “No, just send the horses.”
Scout: “Err… Sire?”
Head of the King’s Guard: “Yeah, then send the King’s men along a bit later…”
Scout: “Errrrr… OK.”
Just imagine the devastation.
Well, today we’re looking at a game that takes one of the more dull but less ridiculous nursery rhymes – ten green bottles – and transforms it in to a counting game for young children all about recycling!
“Hang on, TC,” I hear you chirp, “are you saying this is a game with an educational benefit AND a theme encouraging environmental sustainability? What else could you want in a kids board game…?”
Well, let’s take a look and see.
What is Ten Green Bottles?
It’s a dull nursery rhyme, yes. Very clever…
But it’s also (thanks to giant UK publisher Orchard Toys) a game for 2-4 players, in which each player bids to be the one to recycle all of their bottles first and so win the highly coveted prize of …err… Greenest Gardener in the Village!
It’s advertised as suitable for ages 3 and up, taking 30 minutes to play.
First, the appropriate number of tokens, walls and bottles are counted out from the available components (including one of each numbered bottle and one of each numbered token for each player – a total of 20 in a 2-player game, 30 in a 3-player game etc). The dotted tokens are placed randomly in the middle, face down and each player lines up their 10 bottles in order on top of their wall. Or if you’re edgy like me, out of order…
Starting with the youngest player, each gardener chooses one token at a time, turning it over and counting the number of dots on the front. They then take the equivalent bottle from their wall and post it triumphantly through the welcoming jaws of the 3D bottle bank. Play proceeds clockwise and if the number of dots on the token does not match the number of one of that player’s remaining bottles, then that token is returned to the centre face down and play moves to the next player.
The first player to get rid of all their bottles is the winner!
What’s in the box?
There are 4 player walls (each split into 2 pieces), 40 green bottles, 40 tokens (each with 1-10 dots on), 1 triangular standing recycling bin and 1 rulebook.
What does Ezra reckon?
For all I’ve said in this blog about struggling to engage as an adult with some of the games published by Orchard Toys, they always do a brilliant job of making Ezra smile.
He has a great time playing Ten Green Bottles, although I think most of his enjoyment stems from one of the most basic human revelries – posting things through gaps.
There is something immensely satisfying about it.
My younger son Eli has recently written off 3 car tape/CD players by posting coins in to them when nobody’s looking. Even for me, slotting those parking tokens in to the machine on the way out of the car park can be in the running for the highlight of my day.
The game has enough to it to make him practice counting, which he fortunately enjoys anyway, but it all leads up to that cathartic postage moment.
There’s nothing overly new and exciting for him but he does enjoy it.
Ezra’s score – 17/25
Well, there’s no overstating the enjoyment to be found in posting cardboard bottles through a hole…
Well, actually, I think I actually just overstated it… And there’s not very much else to be stated. Counting dots was never supposed to be an enjoyable adult activity…
I think it’s become clear by now that Orchard Toys don’t make their games with parental engagement in mind and in one sense you have to give them credit for that as they do a wonderful job engaging young minds in gaming and getting kids away from screens and back to the real world. Young children genuinely enjoy their games and they don’t seem to mind that they all appear very similar in mechanics.
Perhaps it’s unfair to even have this “parental opinion” category for Orchard Toys given that they are not trying to entertain us?
Well… I’ll answer your question with another question…
If Darth Vader said to you – “You there, tell me what you think of my empire…?”, what would be your response?
a) “Well, Darth, given that you were never trying to be nice, I think you’ve done a sterling job!”
b) “Well, Darth, it may have been a slightly more enjoyable working environment if you hadn’t killed everyone who challenged you or brought you bad news…? Aa…aaah….aaaaah… my neck ….aaah… I can’t…”
Now that may be a bizarre illustration, but my point is that we shouldn’t excuse an undesirable feature in any product just because the company weren’t trying to make it desirable in that way. If Star Wars Monopoly deliberately avoided representing gender equally, then should we just roll over and accept it?
Personally, I am convinced that it’s possible to make games that engage parents and their young children at the same time and the more I navigate the vast oceans of Orchard Toys’ empire, the more I have come to realise that I long for deeper waters.
Daddy’s score – 4/25
Overarching Principles of Gaming
As discussed last time out, this is more of an educational development thing rather than a principal of gaming as such, so whilst some parents may be glad their kids are learning to count whilst playing, I don’t think it’s relevant to this category where we’re trying to prepare our progeny for that first big tabletop encounter where the gloves are well and truly off on their 18th birthday.
3. Practising visual memory
This is a new one, eh?
So when you choose a tile that’s not one of your remaining numbers, you need to try and remember which one it was so you don’t pick it again and inadvertently declare yourself a moron. Plus, when you’re playing with more than 2 players, you need to keep in your mind a mental map of where the numbers are that other players have turned over in case you need them in future.
This sort of visual memory is perhaps not used a huge amount in adult gaming these days, but sometimes this sort of thing could give you the edge – knowing all the cards an opponent could have in their hand for example relies on this sort of honed visual memory.
As far as gameplay goes, there aren’t really any other principles to grapple with here.
OPG – 7/25
The other stuff
Cost – 2/5
£10.38 off Amazon. Not cheap but not unreasonable. I got mine for £2 from a charity shop. #unleashthethriftmonster.
Art and design – 4/5
The art on the walls is nicely done, drawing a comment or 2 from the little ones. The bottles are well-designed and the dotted counters do their job just fine. Although the backs are a little uninspired.
Theme – 5/5
Having a theme about recycling is a huge plus for this game and unusually for a young children’s game it kind of makes sense! You can imagine the parents collecting up their bottles and putting them on the wall, daring their kids to be the one who got rid of their collections first.
In fact, I can actually see myself doing that in real life!
Rulebook – 3/5
Standard Orchard Toys rulebook.
Does the job of conveying the rules with a beautiful block of bulleted text…
Components – 4/5
Nice thick card for all the bits, although the box is too big as is often the case for these games. Ironically, unnecessarily large packaging does fly in the face of the apparent sustainable theme…
Total score – 46/100
This is a brilliantly-themed game which not only introduces a simple concept to encourage sustainable living but also helps children learn to count.
It won’t entertain you as an adult, but your young children will love it and it might just be worth it for the smile on their face… Then again you could just make up a silly word instead…
Current leaderboard of my review system:
Next time – maybe something German!