Friday, July 24, 2009

#1: Kayanak

  • designer: Peter-Paul Joopen
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 1999
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 2704/6.17
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: approx. $34.19 (

Yes, my friends, we’ve finally reached Number One on the Kid Games 100. The Numero Uno, the Big Kahuna, the game that I believe is possibly the best kid game ever.

Or at least that’s what I think today – and for the past year or so. (I actually made the Kid Games 100 list in May of 2008.) It’s possible something better will come along – but for now, this is my favorite.

Sadly, it’s out of print… which I know (from your emails) makes some of you a bit testy. Sorry about that – but I think two of the best race games on the planet are Entenrallye & Um Reifenbreite… and both of them are OOP as well.

But why do I like Kayanak so much? In the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “let me count the ways”:

  • the theme (ice-fishing) and the mechanics (using a wooden stick to poke holes in the [paper] ice and fishing out small metal balls with a magnet) work together perfectly
  • the components are, as is typical for Haba games, top-notch. In this case, they not only look good but are extremely functional.
  • The game plays well with 2, 3 or 4 players… and with children as young as four & adults as old as dirt.
  • It's freakishly fun - I mean, seriously - you get to poke holes in paper (what kid hasn't spent most of slow school morning doing that?!), play with magnets, and pretend to be an Inuit out on a frozen lake. (OK, I have no desire to ACTUALLY be on a frozen lake, but the pretending part is fun.)

The gameplay is dice-activated: what you roll tell you what you can do (cut holes, fish, move or a combination of things) as well as how many times you can do them. The dice also give you opportunities to ice over other players fishing holes and "melt" portions of the board (making them impassable).

There's a lot of ways to play tactically - and yet, part of the charm of the game is that the fish (little metal balls in two sizes: regular & "fish story") sometimes clump together so that make an amazing haul... and sometimes you fish in an area that is, sadly, fishless. (Is "fishless" a word? I'm not sure that I care.)

I never refuse to play this with my boys... or at game conventions... or wherever. And that's why it's #1.


Todd D. said...

Congratulations on finishing this excellent project! (I sent you my last smidgen of GeekGold, too.)

Jason said...

Thanks for working on this list! You're making my Christmas shopping for my kids a little easier!