Game Buzz: Let’s HABA Baby!

I haven’t talked about this on the blog yet, but on or around July 14th, my wife and I will be welcoming our first child to the world (it’s a girl!).  Today is her baby shower, and one of the things I’ve been doing as a soon-to-be-gamer dad is putting some kid friendly games on our registry.  So this is going to be a different kind of post, perhaps with limited appeal – I’m not looking at the new hotness or reviewing anything, just wanted to mention a few of the games I’ve been looking at.  These are all published by German company HABA.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

First Orchard is a game from 2009 that was designed by Anneliese Farkaschovsky.  It’s part of HABA’s My Very First Games line, and is for ages 2 and up.  It’s a cooperative game for 1-4 players.  The game comes with four green apples, four red apples, four yellow pears, and four blue plums.  There’s also a six-sided die, a five space raven track, a wooden raven, and a basket for collecting fruit.

Gameplay is very simple.  On your turn, roll the die.  If you roll a color, collect the matching fruit and put it in the basket.  If you roll the basket, move one fruit of your choice to the basket.  If you roll the raven, move it one space down the track.  If the raven reaches the end of the track before you collect all of the fruit, you lose.  If you get all the fruit first, you win!

This looks like a great game for little kids.  Ridiculously simple, sure, but I’m not looking for her to be playing Mage Knight right out of the gate (have to give her a couple of years to work up to that).  The pieces look great, and it’s cooperative, so you learn social skills as well as color recognition and counting.  Definitely on the wishlist!

image from HABA USA website
image from HABA USA website

Sailor Ahoy! (2011) is another cooperative game in the My Very First Games line, this one designed by Haru Bartel.  Again, it’s for 1-4 players ages 2 and up.  In this one, you take turns controlling a sailor racing across the board to collect all the pieces of his boat before it sails off without him.

At the start of the game, the board is constructed out of six large puzzle pieces.  You then scatter the five pieces of the boat around the board in indicated locations and place the boat itself at the start of the water track.  The sailor’s head is placed on the start space of the board.  On your turn, roll a die, then move forward to the indicated color (red or yellow).  If you roll a sailor, everyone yells “SAILOR AHOY!” and claps.  If you roll the boat, it moves forward one space.  If you manage to make it to the finish line, having collected all five pieces, you win.  If the boat sails off the edge of the board, it has left you behind and you lose.

Again, a cooperative game about rolling a die and color matching.  This one has fewer colors than First Orchard, but what I like is that you build the ship as you go.  In fact, HABA does say that this can be played as a game, or just used as a toy – the board is a puzzle with a full picture on the opposite side, and you can have fun building the boat too.  The pieces look great, and this is one I’d love to get.

image by BGG user muka
image by BGG user muka

Socken Zocken (2004) is a game by Michael Schacht of all people.  This one is for ages 4 and up, and is for 2-6 players.  It’s actually called Lucky Sock Dip in English, but Socken Zocken is just more fun to say.  The game comes with 48 wooden socks and 13 clothespins.  Oh, and a Sock Monster.  To play, you just dump all the socks out in a pile, say go, and start looking for matching socks.  The first person to come up with five socks wins the round and gets a clothes pin.  The first person to three clothes pins wins the game.

This is a game about observation and speed, so it’s probably more suited for older children.  But still, this is a cool looking game that would be fun to have in the collection when she gets older.  Wooden socks, clothes pins, AND a Sock Monster?  Sign me up.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Rhino Hero (2011) was designed by Scott Frisco and Steven Strumpf.  It’s for 2-5 players ages 5 and up.  It’s a dexterity game that looks like Jenga, but fun.  The game comes with 31 roof cards, a foundation, and 28 walls, as well as Super Rhino.  Each player is dealt five roof cards (7 in a two-player game).  On your turn, you build walls on the floor of the building according to the markings on the roof card (or foundation) below.  You then place a roof card on top of the walls.

But wait!  There are symbols on the roof cards.  You could reverse direction, cause someone to lose a turn, cause someone to draw another roof card, allow you to place a second roof, or even make the next player move Super Rhino to the new floor.  The game ends when one player plays their last roof card (they win) OR when one player knocks the tower over (the player with the fewest roof cards wins) OR when the walls run out (everyone wins).

This game looks really cool, a good stacking game with a fun theme.  It’s not wood, except for the Super Rhino, and might be a little frustrating with the luck of the draw on card powers.  Nothing like a little take that in a kid’s game, right?  But there’s no reason you can’t just ignore them (except for Super Rhino).  Again, for older kids, but one that would probably be fun for all.

image by BGG user kaylex
image by BGG user kaylex

Animal Upon Animal (2005) is one of the most popular games HABA has.  Designed by Klaus Miltenberger, this 2-4 player game is for ages 4 and up.  It’s also the one on this list that I’ve actually played, and it’s one I like a lot.  There are 29 animal pieces in the game – one crocodile, then a set of seven other animals for each player (monkey, penguin, sheep, lizard, hedgehog, snake, and toucan).  There’s also a die that will be rolled before each turn to determine what you have to do.  One dot means place one animal on the stack (the crocodile is the base).  Two dots mean place two animals.  The crocodile means place an animal right next to the crocodile’s tail or mouth, thus increasing the base size.  The hand means you give a piece to another player and THEY must place it.  The question mark means the other players decide why you must place.

If the stack collapses during your placement, your turn is over and you take 1-2 of the fallen animals back into your supply (even if you didn’t place them).  Other fallen animals are removed from the game.  When someone successfully gets rid of their last animal, they win.

This game is awesome.  The animal pieces are super cool, and this is a game that, while it may not be appreciated by a baby, would still be appreciated for its toy value.  So this is top of my list for kid games I want.  For baby, of course.

I have a feeling HABA is going to be a good friend for the next few years.  With all the junk on shelves in stores right now, it’s good that there’s a company that creates some high quality stuff that I want my daughter to play.  Hopefully this will lead to a lifetime of gaming goodness…time will tell.  Thanks for reading!

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