Happy Baobab Mega Review Extravaganza

Roll up, roll up to the greatest review extravaganza to ever hit these shores. Tonight, for one night only we have not 1, not 2, not 3 but 4 reviews for you all in one svelte package (well one large cardboard box actually). The fine folks at Happy Baobab were nice enough to send me a package with some of their games, and I’ve been working through them at a steady lick to bring you this spectacle. On with the show!

Fold-It

The first game I cracked open was the one that had made me say yes to taking these games on for review. I’d seen Fold-it in a couple of places and thought it might be a good one for my wife and I to play: she very much enjoys pattern matching style play (Patchwork has been a big hit).

Each player is given a piece of cloth, which feels like a silk handkerchief, on which are displayed 16 dishes of food ranging from Sushi to Ramen. This pattern is repeated on both sides and every player has exactly the same arrangement of dishes on their cloth. Each round a player turns over a card from either the easy or hard deck and everyone then attempts to fold their cloth so that only the dishes shown appear on their cloth. However, you can only fold along horizontals and verticals making this task a lot trickier than it at first appears.

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I like to Fold-it, Fold-it

As you complete the task you grab a token from the middle, of which there are 1 less than the number of players. The last player to complete it loses a star. Anyone who gets the pattern wrong will also lose stars. Players get eliminated as they lose stars and the last one with any left is the winner.

Now I am not usually a fan of player elimination, but Fold-it is a short punchy game, making it feel less detrimental. In addition just because you are eliminated doesn’t mean you can’t attempt the task at hand anyway, mocking the remaining players with your folding prowess! The cloth is a delight to fold and the art is simple but evocative. Although the task sounds easy, when you are under time pressure and you just can’t quite tell how to fold one thing near another this becomes a game of laughter and frustration as the smug finishers sit and watch you tear your hair out!

I’ve really enjoyed all the games I’ve played of Fold-it and it went down really well with some kids I played it with. I would say that the puzzle element of it is a little Rubik’s cube like. You can learn how to get dishes from one place to another, meaning that a more experienced player is likely to have an advantage over someone new. That small gripe aside it’s a really solid game that I can see being a good filler for a lot of groups.

It’s worth noting that this game is getting a new version called Magic Fold, that I believe was available at Essen. This adds some sort of boardgame race element to the proceedings as well as powers, but I have no idea how it compares to this simple, if devious, little game.

Layers

The second game I played from the bundle was Layers, which has a very similar premise in principle, if not in practice.

In front of the players lie 3 stacks of tiles, marked 3, 4 and 5. These numbers relate to how many of the plastic/cardboard layers you have at your disposal that you will need to arrange to form the pattern shown. Of course there is a race element as well, but even more so than in Fold-it. You see once the first player thinks they are done, grabbing a cover for their cards so that no-one can copy them, they grab a timer and turn it over, giving the remaining players mere seconds to complete their own efforts. Frantically you turn your layers left right and upside down trying to find the pattern, checking how long you have left only to have the next cover snatched away from you just as you complete.

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Once everyone is done, or the time runs out, you check in order of finishing. Get it right and get some points, get it wrong and the next person along can get your points instead! There is an interesting wrinkle in the proceedings here. Every turn you flip a card showing who gets what points depending on how quickly they have completed the pattern laid in front of them. You may even get a chance to steal the occasional point! The player who completes first always gets points equal to the number of layers used in the pattern, meaning there is an incentive to move fast if you think you are good enough!

I think I preferred Layers over Fold-It. No player elimination, which is always a plus in my book, and the experiential knowledge doesn’t seem as important. It’s a wonderfully frustrating game of pattern recognition and shared delight in getting it right and I thoroughly recommend it to you.

Crazy Eggz

This is the silliest of the bunch by a long shot and effectively comes down to a sort of twister in a box kind of affair, though not as well done as the excellent Yogi from Stuff by Bez. It is a cool package though, just look at it!

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It’s an awesome box and I was excited to crack it open. Inside lie some rubber eggs, 11 squishy ones and a more solid one. Gameplay is relatively straight forward. Roll the red dice, the first person to do as instructed on the dice gets to grab an egg and put it on themselves according to the instructions on a second dice: in the crook of the elbow, under the chin etc. If you manage to accumulate 5 of these then you must complete one final ritual before winning.

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Sam in thrall to the Crazy Eggz!

You see throughout this entire affair you are seated. This means that obeying some of the instructions on the dice becomes increasingly difficult as you tuck eggs about your person (one of them is standing up and striking a disco pose for instance). Anyway, the final stretch sees you standing up, turning round and shouting cock a doodle do. No I’m not kidding.

The game is silly, but it knows it and that is perfectly fine. It plays quite a small number for such a party style game but it does exactly what is says on the tin and I can see it going down a storm with families.

Touchdown

Touchdown was the last to get to the table and I was instantly taken by this simple little draughts style game. The components are really lovely with the tiles you use to create the board coming with a layer of foam on the bottom, so they can’t slip about on a smooth surface. A thoughtful touch.

The game itself comes down to a simple movement puzzle, that I enjoyed immensely. You get 4 chunky pieces representing the forces of pigs or cows. Then you get 3 movement points about to move your animal team about trying to get to the opposite corner of the board before your opponent does the same.

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The eternal struggle of pigs VS cows.

Sure you can just toddle over there slow and steady but that will not win you the race. You need to leap over other animals, bound over fences and block your opponents from doing the same. The movement points can be used to affect all these strategies but the limited nature of them from turn to turn encourages just enough thinking ahead to make the game interesting.

I found the combination of chunky pieces, a modular board and a finite resource to spend as you see fit led to a lovely puzzle that both children and adults can grasp easily. I was instantly charmed by this game and I can see it being a great introduction for families to a more abstract style of play.

All in all

Despite my initial trepidation, I’ve have had a fantastic time with the games from Happy Baobab. These are designs with a huge amount of charm and a lot of fun packed into wonderful games that will have you laughing as much as it will have you scratching your head. My favourite of the four was definitely Layers as it avoided the player elimination of Fold It and the puzzle was less ‘learnable’ so experienced players and new players are on a more even keel. However, every one of the games had their own individual merits to recommend them and I hope you will check at least one of them out when you next get the chance.

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