Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Big Top (also Barnyard Critters)

Subject: Math
Category: Pattern recognition, logic
Ages: 4 and up
# of players: 2 to 8
Time to play: 15 minutes
Mechanics/Game Type: card collection

Ratings (1 to 5)

Educational Value: 5
Gaming value: 3
Aesthetic value: 3
Price value: 5
Ease of play: 5
Younger adaptability: n/a

My comments: A nice twist on matching games, the object is to find what is missing rather than matching what is there. The game uses 5 animals and 5 colors on two types of cards--one type has one animal in one color that are spread out on the playing surface, and the other type has 4 animals in 4 colors that are stacked face down in the middle. You flip the top card and try to figure out which animal and color are missing, and the first player to slap the card with that single animal and color gets to keep it. After flipping all the cards in the deck and collecting all the single animal cards, the player with the most cards wins.

Because the cards have to be analyzed systematically on two different features, the game builds logic skills aw well as pattern recognition. Speed is a factor, which may be a bit frustrating for mixed-age players. It is a good game to start with if the Set (to be reviewed) is too challenging. The deck comes in a hard lidded box rather than the typical flimsy flip-top with colorful animals on them.

For a more challenging variation, switch the decks such that the 4-animal cards are spread out and the single-animal cards are flipped over.

NOTE: be sure to look at the images at Board Game Geek. Barnyard Critters is made by Rio Grande and though still available, it is discontinued (see here at Big Top is made by Gamewright (see here at in a magenta box with an elephant but there is another completely different game of the same name by Advanced Primate Entertainment in a yellow box with a ring master meant for older kids. link to this game:

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