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My 2011 in Review: Children's Games

This is the fourth installment of a series of articles, in which I take a look back at some of the new games I've played and explored in the past year. I play a lot of games with both younger and older children, and the Family Games category which is still coming up will feature some of my best new games of the past year! The Children's Games category here covers games more suited to youngsters around 6 and up.

Race games nearly always work well for children, and it's a common theme in both Worm Up! and North Pole. Knizia brings us more penguins with his very cute Penguin Party, which is perhaps our favourite game of the lot. Leaving the sub-zero temperatures preferred by penguins behind, we increase the heat and round things off with Hot Potato, one of two 2011 releases from CGF that appear in this list.

Penguin Party

Don't all kids love penguins? Certainly we do, and in Penguin Party we get simple penguin charm combined with the usual Knizia cleverness - but without any math!

Essentially a card game, all players are dealt an equal number of penguin cards, which feature colourful penguins in five different types. Players take turns placing them into a common pyramid shape, with a restriction that you can only place a penguin on top of a matching card. The aim is to get rid of all your cards if you can, and you lose points for each card that you're stuck with when you can't place anymore.

It's simple enough for young kids to grasp, and yet fun and clever enough for adults to enjoy playing too - skillful placement can be rewarded! Wonderful artwork too. The game actually picked up a Spiel des Jahres Recommendation in 2008, so we're not the only ones who like this game a lot.

Want to know more? See a full review: mb Review of a masterpiece in 10 bullets

Hot Potato

From cold we go to hot. Hot Potato is a very light card game that was released in 2011 by Cambridge Games Factory. One of its strengths is that it can handle as many as 9 players and still be fun.

The theme is exactly as one might expect: you're passing "hot potato" cards around the table. If you are passed a hot potato, you'll need Action cards to pass it left or right - because as everyone knows, if you're caught holding the hot potato you get a "burn"! You can also add Seasonings which increase the burns and do other crazy stuff. Some expansion cards are also included which add new twists.

It's a simple concept, and the theme translates remarkably well to the gameplay. Overall this is a fantastic kid-friendly theme that's very original, plays quickly and easily, and works well!

Want to know more? See my full review: mb A Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Hey quick, pass it on, it's another hot card game from Cambridge Games Factory!

Worm Up!

Worm Up! is a very cute and endearing race game for children and adults, in which players are racing their worms in a quest to be the fastest to the finish line. It's been around for a while, but the past year saw it being released in a brand new edition with some new components.

The main mechanic is simultaneous selection, as everyone simultaneously selects and reveals a number on their die. If you're the only player to pick that number, you get to move your worm forward the matching number of segments; but if you chose the same number as another player, you don't get to move at all that round. This bidding mechanic results in groans and grins alike, and also there's some real fun to be had in trying to cut off other players while making your own dash for the finish.

The game plays quickly, is easy to learn, and great for people of all ages - especially kids, who just love the idea of racing worms. Recommended!

Want to know more? See my full review: mb A Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Get Ready! Get Set! Wiggle!

North Pole

More penguins? That's okay, we're long not sick of them yet, and these ones are particularly cute. In North Pole, players are penguins from the South Pole. While on vacation, these adventurous penguins decide to amuse themselves with a race from Base Camp to the North Pole, with the first to make it there and back being the winner.

The game uses cards for two purposes - first of all to denote the landscape on which the game is played, but also for a set collection mechanic which determines penguin movement. The basic flow of play is that players take turns to play cards from their hand in order to move, and then at the end of their turn they draw two new cards. Different kinds of movement include Waddle, Snow Shoe, Sled, and Dog Sled, which are distinguished by different combinations of cards and their relationship to the location card your penguin is moving to. You can also use Blizzards to cause havoc on your opponents' plans, or Repair the Ice to fix holes in the ice.

North Pole features charming artwork and solid gameplay that will especially amuse children. Yet there are enough decisions about which cards to collect and play that the adults can enjoy it too. As such, it's ideally suited as a family game that is more than just a matter of luck-of-the-draw, and the race theme really helps add appeal. This is a 2011 release with lots of charm.

Want to know more? See my full review: mb A Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Of course the family loves it - you get to race penguins!

Join the discussion: What is the best new children's game that you learned in the past year? And if you have played any of above mentioned games, what did you think of them?

Read the whole series: My 2011 in Review: A look back at some new games
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