Tuesday, May 12, 2009

#14: The Secret Door

The Secret Door
  • designer: Jim Deacover
  • publisher: Family Pastimes
  • date: 1991
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 2578/6.22
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 1-8
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $10.45 (Fairplay Games)
All of us have been forced to play the game Memory with a kid at one time or another... there's a couple of reasons for that. First, it's easy to teach: pick up two cards & keep 'em if they match. Second, it uses developmentally appropriate skills - kids are good at loading things into their memory banks. (Much better, in fact, than adults... which may explain why I lose at memory games to kids so dang often.)

So it's really nice when a game comes along that manages to tweak the standard Memory format in some small but significant ways, creating a playing experience that my kids ask for over & over again.

The theme (we're working together to stop thieves from stealing some of our precious stuff) is easy for kids to jump into... and the mechanics (turn up a card, then turn up another card) are easy. What makes the game interesting is the timer... wait a minute, let me back up.

When you're setting up the game, you mix all of the precious items together (I think there are 10 pairs) and pick three (face-down) to hide behind the secret door. The objective of the game is to correctly guess which three items are behind the door.

Before you place the objects on the board, you mix in 12 "clock" cards. Each time a player turns over a clock card, it is removed from the house & placed on the timer track at the top of the board. When all 12 clocks are revealed, the game is over. Using the information you've gleaned from making pairs of the valuable objects, the players together make a guess about the three items. Get them correct and win... but miss one & the thieves get away!

I'm not sure my description does the game justice. It's quick to play (15 minutes or so), always tense, easy for younger children (age 4+) to join in, and it's a cooperative game as well. It is, frankly, the best of the Family Pastimes games I've played.

My only caveat is the quality of the bits. The board is mounted, but the cards are on flimsy cardstock - you should put some kind of backing on them to help them withstand repeated play.

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