Buzzworthiness: Pengoloo and Hoot Owl Hoot!

Today, I want to take a look at a couple of games that are a little outside of my normal sphere of review.  These two games, Pengoloo and Hoot Owl Hoot!, are children’s games.  And not just kid’s games, they are YOUNG kid’s games.  My three-year-old daughter got them both for Christmas, and we’ve been playing them a fair few times.  I wanted to talk about them a bit for anyone out there who has some young children, or knows some who need some better games.  So this is your warning – if you’re only here for the hobby style games, this is not the post for you.  These games are both better than your standard mainstream kid’s games, but they are still very much kid’s games.  These are not Animal Upon Animal/Loopin’ Louie adults-enjoy-them-too level games.

OK, everyone set?  Let’s start with…

image by BGG user simonh

Pengoloo is a game that was originally published in 2007 by Blue Orange Games, as designed by Thierry Denoual.  It’s a 2-4 player game that is listed for players aged 4 and up, but my daughter understands it quite well and she’s 3.  It’s a basic memory game where you’re trying to find certain penguin eggs.

The game comes with 12 hollowed out penguins, 12 eggs (in six colors), 4 scoreboards, and 2 dice.  All components are wooden.  To set up the game, everyone gets a scoreboard and you mix up the penguins, each concealing a different egg.

image by BGG user blueorange

On your turn, you’ll roll the two dice, then lift up two penguins.  If the colors on at least one of the eggs matches what was rolled, you collect the egg and the penguin, placing them on your scoreboard.  If the colors both match, you collect them and take another turn.

That’s it.  There’s nothing too complicated here.  The game is over when someone gets to 6 eggs collected, or when the penguins run out.  Whoever has the most eggs is the winner.

image by BGG user ConnectMore

The first thing you’ll notice about this game is that the components are awesome.  The penguins are well constructed and nicely cover the eggs, which are solid.  The scoreboards are numbered and a good size to hold the penguins.  About the only complaint I have about the components is the insert.  It stores everything very well, that’s not my problem.  My problem is that, for some reason, the storage place for the dice is right under the scoreboards.  The scoreboards fit tightly in place, and if you’re playing with fewer than four players, you still have to dig out the dice from under the unused scoreboards.  It’s a nuisance.

Gameplay is incredibly simple, and this game is very much like the classic Memory game.  The big difference here is that players are beholden to the dice to determine what colors they are going for.  So you might know exactly where the red, yellow, and orange eggs are, but you just rolled a green and a purple.  This is good to help balancing things, but it can also make the last few rounds and exercise in tedium – I know that last egg is blue, but no one can roll it to save their lives.  This is why there’s an advanced variant where you can steal eggs from other players, but I have not played that way – this is not a skill I want to teach my daughter yet.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? My daughter fully understands this game, and could easily teach it to anyone.  Play is very intuitive, and anyone can figure it out with hardly any introduction.  It is an improvement on Memory in a lot of ways – not as overwhelming, a little less dependent on actual memory, better components, and more fun to set up.  I would say this game is a great choice for young kids, especially if you’re looking for a memory game.

image by BGG user unco

Hoot Owl Hoot! is a 2010 game designed by Susan McKinley Ross (designer of Qwirkle), and published by Peaceable Kingdom.  This is a cooperative game where players need to get owls back to their nest before the sun rises.

The game comes with a board, 50 cards, six owl tokens, and a sun token.  The sun token is placed on the sun track at the start.  Each player is dealt three cards.  You’ll put a number of owls at the start equal to the experience you want – 3 is easiest, 6 is most challenging.

image by BGG user bgBrian

On your turn, you simply play one of your three cards.  If you have a sun card, you must play that and advance the sun token one space.  If not, just choose a color and move one of the owls to the next space of that color.  You’re supposed to hoot if you fly over another owl while doing this.  At the end of your turn, draw a new card.

The game ends in one of two ways – get all owls back to the nest and win, or the sun token reaches the end of the track and you lose.

image by BGG user ZackStack

The bits in this game are all made from environmentally friendly materials.  The rules are even printed on the inside of the box cover, which cuts down on paper waste.  This is a good thing, but the cards end up being a little flimsy.  The owls are cardboard tokens, which isn’t terrible, but I feel that the game might be a little more pleasing with some owl minis instead.  But I appreciate what they were trying to do.  I just hope it doesn’t biodegrade someday while we’re playing it.

Gameplay is probably most similar to Candy Land – play a card, move to the color depicted.  But Hoot Owl Hoot! has a distinct advantage over Candy Land in that you have a choice of three cards, rather than just drawing and going where it tells you.  There are also no cards that will send you to special locations on the board, though the sun cards can kind of stink since you have to play them when you have them.  The game is cooperative and hands are visible, meaning players can discuss what to do.  The rules are a bit more complicated than Pengoloo, and my daughter has needed some help in figuring out how things work.  But overall, this game is a pretty fun experience of color matching and strategy.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? If you have a Candy Land fan in your life that you would love to get into something else, do consider Hoot Owl Hoot!  It’s more strategic, it addresses the same color matching skill, and it’s not as dependent on luck.  It’s also more fun.  Sure, it doesn’t have the candy theme, but it’s environmentally friendly and not contributing to the encouragement of obesity.

That will do it for today.  Thanks for reading!


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