Buzzworthiness: Rhino Hero

Today’s review is of a kid’s game called…

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

Rhino Hero was designed by Scott Frisco and Steven Strumpf, and was originally published by HABA in 2012.  The game was called Super Rhino in its initial incarnation, but the English version changed the name for some reason.  It’s a dexterity game for ages 5 and up where you are building a tower from cards.  Sounds straightforward, but the cards have some different special abilities, and you always have to beware of the misguided rhinoceros superhero that is trying to scale the building.

image by BGG user toulouse
image by BGG user toulouse

The game contains 31 roof cards, 28 wall cards, 1 foundation card, and a wooden Rhino Hero.  Setup is simple – place the foundation card, and deal five roof cards to each player.

image by BGG user punkin312
image by BGG user punkin312

On your turn, place walls on the marks of the current top card.  Then, place a new floor on top of the walls.  Some of the roof cards have special symbols, each of which gives you something different to do.

  • A circle of arrows means that play switches direction.
  • An exclamation point means that the next player is skipped.
  • A +1 means the next player must draw a card before playing.
  • A 2x means that you can place a second roof card on top of the one you just played.
  • The rhino means that the next player must move the Rhino Hero from wherever he is currently to that spot on that floor.  This must be done before placing a new roof.

Once you’ve successfully got your roof on the tower, it’s the next player’s turn.  Play continues until someone runs out of cards.  They win.  The game can also end if someone knocks the tower over.  They lose, and the player with the fewest remaining cards is the winner.

image by BGG user PowerTrader
image by BGG user PowerTrader

COMPONENTS: The components are pretty high quality, which is something you’d expect from a HABA game, and also something you’d expect from a game that has stacking cards.  If they were flimsy, the whole thing just wouldn’t work.  Also, you get a cool superheroic rhinoceros meeple.

THEME: There’s not really an overwhelming theme here.  You’re constructing a tower out of cards, and the art is cute and makes it look like you’re actually building something.  However, it doesn’t really make sense – in the real world, you don’t build one floor at a time, you build a framework, THEN add all the details.  People certainly aren’t living there while you build.  But that’s not being unnecessarily pedantic – it’s cute.  And the addition of a superheroic rhinoceros just adds to the whimsy.

I do want to take a moment here to take issue with the name.  The original title of the game was Super Rhino, and they changed it to Rhino Hero for the English edition.  That’s a step backwards, in my opinion.  The game’s not REALLY about the rhino to begin with, but Super Rhino kind of rolls off the tongue and really implies a superhero, whereas Rhino Hero does not.  I don’t know why they changed it, but I wish they hadn’t.

MECHANICS: This game is a pure stacking game, much like Jenga or Animal Upon Animal.  The big difference is that you’re stacking cards instead of wooden objects.  Having different configurations of walls on each floor is a nice touch, and helps this game to be more than just stacking one thing on top of another.  Also, the addition of card abilities is a nice touch to add some extra strategy into the game – do I make my opponent move the Rhino, or do I skip him entirely?  The Skip and Reverse powers will probably rankle some people, and it is very possible that some people won’t even get a turn before the walls come a-tumbling down.  These things don’t bother me because the game is so fast, but it is a potential issue.

STRATEGY LEVEL: Most dexterity games don’t have much in the way of strategy.  However, this one introduces strategy with the card abilities, as well as wall configurations.  You need to decide which floor to put on top each turn…that is, if you didn’t knock it down first with your wall placement or the rhino.

ACCESSIBILITY: This is a kid’s game, and I think it will work well with kids.  Adults really like it too, and that’s always the mark of a good children’s product.  The tower can get pretty tall, so if you are playing with kids, I’d suggest doing it on the floor.  That is unless you want people standing on chairs.

image by BGG user PhishBoy
image by BGG user PhishBoy

SCALABILITY: The game plays from 2-5 players, and I think this that the more you have, the better.  You can get that tower pretty tall with lots of people.  With two, I’d say don’t even worry about the getting rid of your cards thing and just play until the tower collapses.  Of course, the more people you have, the more chance there is that someone won’t get to play.

REPLAYABILITY: This is a very replayable game.  The cards will always come out in a different order, and you get a good amount of tension every time you try to stack a new set of cards.

INTERACTION: The interaction in this game mostly comes in setting up the next player.  Don’t be a jerk that knocks the table or blows on the tower that someone else is working on, but I’d say feel free to trash talk or make comments or sound effects to heighten that tension.

FOOTPRINT: You really only need the space of one card to play this game, with room to build up.  Probably don’t play it on an airplane or outside, but this game can be played most other places without too much of a problem.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Yes.  I don’t necessarily think it’s as good as another HABA stacking game (Animal Upon Animal), but it is different enough to justify its own existence.  At the very least, I think with these two games, there is no reason for anyone to own Jenga anymore.

Thanks for reading!

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