Designer: Reinhard Staupe Publisher: Playroom Entertainment Year: 2006 Players: 2-5 Ages: 6+ Playing Time: 15 minutes
The Idea M is for Mouse is a 3-in-1 children’s card game which involves players matching pictures of objects with the first letter the objects begin with.
In the Box M is for Mouse comes in a nice small, compact box which holds the contents of the game very well. The artwork on the box and cards is nice and pretty clearly establishes the game as a children’s game with an educational bent.
The instruction booklet contains the instructions in English, Spanish and French and each language takes up 5 small pages. Instructions for the 3 games are fairly clear but will require an adult to explain them to children. There are illustrations to help make the instructions quite clear.
Primarily during play you’ll be using 26 excellent quality cards. The cards are quite a thick cardstock and will stand up to a fair bit of punishment from younger children. Each card features 2 illustrated objects and 2 upper case letters on them. The objects illustrated are very common objects and are commonly used by educators when teaching letter recognition and basic phonics. My only complaint with the objects chosen is that for E they used “Ear” and for I they chose “Ice-Cream” both of which use long vowel sounds (technically a diphthong in the case of “ear”) while every other vowel object uses a short vowel sound. But it’s a fairly minor complaint as the objects are still very common vocabulary for the age-group.
All of the different objects and the letter they match with are detailed on the 5 “Letter Board” reference cards. These cards are made of the same cardstock as the playing cards and serve as good reminders for younger children who are playing the game. Personally I would have liked it if these were a bit bigger but again this is a very minor complaint.
Finally the game comes with 30 small chips in a small resealable bag. These tokens are pretty small and adult fingers will have to be careful with them. However they are suitably sized for suitably aged children and their function within the game. They do however pose a choking hazard for young children making the game inappropriate for children under 3 years old (even if they are learning the alphabet at that age).
Overall the production of the game is very appropriate for the target audience and the components will easily outlast your children’s interest in the game.
Basic Game Play Summary As mentioned above, M is for Mouse actually contains 3 games to play with the components. All of the games basically require players to match an object with its starting letter. For example the letter Z on one card will form a match with the picture of a zebra on another card. Players can’t match letters to letters or pictures to pictures.
The first game involves players making matches between their initial hand of 3 cards and 3 other cards which have been placed face up in the middle of the table. As players take turns and make matches, chips are placed over the objects and letters on the face-up cards to show that other players can no longer use them this round. This will gradually reduce the number of options players have making finding a match less likely. When a player can’t make a match they are out of the current round. The last player to make a match is the winner of the round and will permanently discard one of their cards for the following round. Plays can continue like this through a number of rounds until one player has discarded all of their initial 3 cards (or until the kids get tired of the game).
The second game is more focussed on finding matches quickly. One player will act as the dealer and will deal out 2 cards face up on the table. All of the players will then race to find a match on the face-up cards. If they can’t find a match then another card will be dealt out beside them and players will continue searching for a match. When a match is found the player who found it takes all of the face up cards except one and puts them into their score pile. The game continues until all of the cards have been used and then the player with the most cards in their score pile wins the game.
For the last game, players will each receive an equal number of chips. Eight cards are placed face up in the middle of the table and players race to find matches. When a player finds a match they announce it and place one of their tokens onto the letter involved in the match. When all of the matches have been made those eight cards and the tokens on them are removed from the game. Eight new cards are dealt out and play continues in the same way until one player has used all of their tokens to win the game.
Who Would Like It M is for Mouse is clearly targeted at children who are learning the alphabet and how to spell. It is a reasonably engaging method of practising matching letters, sounds and spelling and acts as a good reinforcement tool. As such it’s a good game for parents who want to assist their children’s spelling skills or for teachers of young children.
However two of the games don’t have clear turns and conflicts can arise as children try to decide who got in first. For this reason adults may need to be involved to some extent to help children develop the skills necessary to settle these conflicts. The rules are also probably going to require an adult to teach them. Unfortunately it isn’t a particularly interesting or challenging game for adults (although a practiced child could give the casual adult player a run for their money). Adults will only really want to be involved in the game for the sake of guiding the children’s development.
M is for Mouse may also not work as well when there is an age or ability difference between the various players. While this won’t be an issue for the first version of the game and its separate turns, younger children may have difficulty competing against older children when speed of response is involved.
And finally, M is for Mouse is more of a game you would play for the educational benefits than the fun factor. Once children have mastered what it’s teaching the fun factor will probably drop off quickly when compared to other reflex and dexterity games or games which have more of a memory element to them.
Where to From Here? As children develop their spelling and reading ability you could move them onto other word games like Bananagrams (published by Banagrams) which requires players to construct words from tiles crossword style (without the complexity of Scrabble). Beyond that you could try You've Been Sentenced! (from McNeill Designs) which will help develop children’s sentence construction ability.
M is for Mouse is part of Playroom Entertainment’s Bright Ideas line and there are many other games which young children will enjoy. Some other titles in this line include Sherlock (also by M is for Monkey’s designer Reinhold Staupe), Monkey Memory and Catch the Match.
Another publisher well known for it’s children’s games is Gamewright. Some of the most popular titles for a similar age group include Slamwich, Rat-a-Tat Cat and Cuckoo Zoo.