Tuesday, July 21, 2009

#4: Maskenball der Käfer

Maskenball der Käfer (The Ladybug's Costume Party)

  • designer: Peter-Paul Joopen
  • publisher: Selecta
  • date: 2002
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 1928/7.05
  • age: 4+
  • # of players: 2-5
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: $51.45 (FairPlay Games)
See, the ladybugs are having a costume party - so they've decided to trade colored spots. (Yes, kids, this happens in the real world all the time, as bugs often exchange their coloring with each other & hold tiny bug raves where they play remixes of Adam Ant and the Scorpions and dance the night way using glow sticks provided by their friendly neighborhood lightening bugs.)

Now, you'd think that my sarcasm about the theme would keep me from enjoying this cooperative memory game - but it doesn't. Maybe it's because I think that the wooden ladybugs with the magnetic noses are so darn cute... or because the idea of yellow wooden ants advancing up the vine to chow down on the picnic food is appealing to me in some way... or probably because after 63 games of this with my kids, this is such a playable & enjoyable game that I'm ready to play it again.

It's simple - on your turn you spin the flower spinner which either points to:
  • a petal, which indicates which ladybug will be moving this turn, OR
  • a leaf, which indicates that one of the ants is placed on the time track, meaning the ladybug party is getting closer to be crashed by a bunch of loud-mouthed refugees from "A Bug's Life"

If you do get to move a ladybug, you choose a different ladybug to attempt to befriend... then have them touch noses. Due to a very clever bit of component design (the noses are magnetic & the wooden bases of the ladybugs are curved so they spin easily), the bugs either "kiss" or the bug you're attempting to befriend spins away, kind of like my wife after I've eaten Twizzlers. (She says she doesn't want to kiss me because my breath smells like "you've been chewing on the dashboard in the van.")

If they kiss, they exchange spots (small wooden pegs) and the ladybug gets to fly to another petal & attempt to make friends. If the moving ladybug is rejected, the turn is over. (Some of you are having bad high school prom flashbacks - come on, people! This is the insect kingdom, not a rerun of your junior year!)

When a ladybug has five different colored spots (pegs), they go hang out on the big leaf at the bottom of the board - see, they've got their costume on and are ready to party like it's 1999. The objective, of course, is to get all 8 ladybugs party-ready before 7 ants crash the place.

While I haven't tracked it exactly, our win/loss ratio is about 1 out of every 3-4 games... far enough apart to keep the tension in each game while close enough (esp. since it's short - 15 minutes or so) to keep the younger set from getting frustrated.

My boys both started playing this around the time they were 3 years old. While they needed an adult to help move the pegs around & set up the game, they understood what they were trying to do & enjoyed the game immensely.

Two warnings... well, maybe "warning" is too strong. Two things you need to know about:

  1. The game parts are too small for kids in the appropriate age range to play with by themselves. Selecta is kind enough to provide extra pegs in the box, but this really is a game for kids & parents together.
  2. It's time for my spinner rant - IF you're going to use a spinner, then make sure that the lines marking each area are clear. There are a couple of places on the spinner that are neither petal nor leaf - we just re-spin on those spaces but it's irritating.
Don't let either of those things keep you from playing this - it's #4 on this list for a reason.

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