GeekGold Bonus for All Supporters at year's end: 1000!
9,527 Supporters
$15 min for supporter badge & GeekGold bonus
16 Days Left

Support:

Recommend
39 
 Thumb up
 Hide
4 Posts

Viva Topo!» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Viva Topo! – A worthy addition to the collection ... rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Stephen Brewbacker
United States
Long Island
New York
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
Viva Topo! – A worthy addition to the collection … of games you play with kids

A review.

Preamble:

My daughter is now 4+ years old. At this age, kids should be learning to recognize all of the letters of the alphabet and the numbers from 1 to 100. They should also be developing skills in counting – as in counting objects in groups and counting spaces on a game board. If they have these skills or are in the process, then the number of games they can play – and I mean play by the rules – is increasing exponentially.

This is a great opportunity to start expanding the game collection. You will probably find no finer game for a 4 year old than Gulo Gulo, but there are other games that will draw interest and Viva Topo! is one of them.

Components:

The Selecta company does a nice job on game components and Viva Topo! is no exception: sturdy board; wooden mice; wooden wheels of cheese (and a variety of cheese wedges); a large six-sided die; and a big, fat wooden cat.

The complaint regarding the unstable mice pieces is partially-grounded; I don’t find the mice rolling too far once disturbed – usually their [curled] tails stop them from rolling – but one must take care when moving and placing the mice to find the flat spot on the bottom. I do acknowledge the fact that they are somewhat ‘tippy’- but not to the point that they have a deleterious effect on game play.


The Setup:

Place four slices of cheese (the ‘single wedges’ worth one point) in the correspondingly illustrated corned of the board (the one closest to the starting point for the mice), and then place four slices of cheese (the ‘double wedges’ worth two points) in the next corner – proceeding clockwise in similar fashion with the ‘triple wedges’ (a half-wheel portion of cheese worth three points) and the ‘quadruple wedges’ (slightly larger than a half-wheel piece worth four points) until all four corners are loaded up with 4 pieces of cheese each. Then place the remaining four cheese wheels in the ‘cheese paradise’/ ‘cheese castle’ area in the center of the board (each wheel is comprised of the equivalent of six wedges worth of cheese and is worth six points for scoring purposes). Note: there are no five-point wedges in the game.

Next take the appropriate amount of mice in the color of the player’s choice and place them in the ‘home area’ in the center of the board (the home or starting area is adjacent to the castle/paradise area in the center of the board but the two are not directly linked in terms of movement and play.)

Finally, place the cat on the cat-space marked 2 or 3 or 4 – the number on the starting space for the cat corresponds to the number of players.

Total set-up time should be less than 1 minute.

The Run for the Cheese:

The first player rolls the die and moves their mouse the appropriate amount of spaces. The starting space for the mice is clearly marked by the red arrow. The mice proceed in a clockwise fashion around the board according to the die roll. You may select any one mouse to move, but only one per die roll; you cannot ‘split the roll’ between two of your mice. (If the plural of ‘die’ is ‘dice’ then why is ‘mice’ the plural of ‘mouse’? Never mind.) The race for the cheese is on! The first four mice to make it all the way around the board get a whole wheel of cheese worth six points! Hooray! But not so fast, Speedy Gonzales. The cat is out there and he is ahead of you. Sure, he can’t turn around, and he doesn’t see you even though you may be a sneaky little mouse sitting one space behind him, but if you should pass him, then you just might get caught.

Rolled a 1? There are two sides of the die with a “1” – and the one is accompanied by the ‘cat’ symbol. After you move one of your mice one space, you now advance the cat to the next cat symbol on the board. The spaces for the mice overlap the spaces for the cat. You are allowed four mice on a single space and only four mice – if a fifth mouse tries to end it’s movement in the same space, it forfeits one (or more) point(s) of movement and must end its turn in the last space that doesn’t already contain four mice. If the cat should land in any space that has a mouse or mice – no problem – the cat eats the mice (all of them) and they are removed from the game. Indeed – even if the cat is moving through a space (the cat moves two spaces in the later portion of the game) then he eats all of the mice who are unfortunate enough to be in his path. Thus the rather plump shape of the wooden cat: seems that he quite often gets a belly fully of the tender little morsels. Yummy!

Ideally, one would like to promote their mouse all the way around the board and into ‘cheese paradise’ where the player would collect a whole wheel of cheese (worth six points). However, there are only four wheels – so first come first serve. Also, as mentioned in the setup, each corner of the board is provisioned with cheese. These cheese laden corners are ‘safe havens’ for the mice and any mice venturing in are safe from capture by the cat. In addition, upon entering one of these ‘corner houses’, the player takes a piece of cheese if there are still any available (Re: Again, there are only four pieces – so first come, first serve).

Food for thought (no pun intended):

There are two sides on the die with 1/cat markings and there is a 2,3,4, and 5 – there is no six on the die. Given that fact, the game plays radically different when only two are playing as opposed to when 4 are playing. With four players, the cat moves around the board at a frightening pace.

When the cat has almost completed his first lap around the board (but hasn’t quite gotten to the point described in the paragraph above) he passes the mouse’s starting point the mice’s starting point the meese’s starting point the point where all of the mice start on their journey. Once the cat passes this point the mice remaining at home are no longer in play and can be either ignored for the remainder of the game or are simply removed from the board (I prefer the latter because the board can get pretty busy). So don’t think that you can leave a bunch of mice behind and worry about moving them after the cat has passed. Proper mouse management is key to this game. What this means is that the game is effectively over before the cat has even had a chance to pass the door to the mouse house twice! In fact the game is over when all of the mice are gone (either having been eaten or having left the track OR the cat has reached the castle gate twice – whichever happens first.

It makes no sense to duck into one of the corner houses to escape certain death from the cat if there is no cheese left therein. You CAN enter the corner house if it makes you feel better, but if there is no cheese left you have essentially wasted a move that would be better spent on other mice.


Some rules:

You cannot move a mouse backwards.

A maximum four mice may occupy a space.

On a roll of one/cat – a mouse is moved one space first – then the cat moves.

A mouse my pass the cat at any time, only when the cat moves past a mouse is the mouse caught (and presumably eaten).

Anytime a cat and mouse end their move in the same space the mouse is removed from play – regardless of who moved. When a mouse is captured by the cat, you (the adult) should pick the mouse up by the tail, briefly smile like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland, then proceed to dangle the mouse over your open mouth and pretend to swallow the mouse whole by making a loud gulping sound. Complete the ritual by dropping the mouse into the box – effectively removing it from play. This rule is optional but highly recommended.

Mouse suicide (i.e. deliberately moving a mouse into the space occupied by the cat) is permitted but strongly discouraged. (My daughter actually sacrificed one of her mice in this fashion just to watch my ‘cat eating mouse’ act outlined in the paragraph above.)

The cat follows the cat spaces. At a point where the cat has nearly completed his first lap there is an arrow indicating that the cat is to proceed to the cat symbol two (2) mouse spaces away. Thereafter the cat spaces are located every two (2) mouse spaces – the effect of which is that in the latter portion of the game, the cat moves two (2) mouse spaces whenever a 1/cat is rolled.

Once in a house the mouse is not allowed to leave. There are two entrance ways into each of the four ‘corner houses’. Moving into a house counts as one movement/one space. You may NOT move backwards to enter a house. Movement is always clockwise.

Once a player has been eliminated (all of their mice are either in a corner house, in the cheese paradise, or have been eaten by the cat) they still roll the die on their turn. On a roll of a 1/cat – the cat is advanced to the next cat space.

When playing with two players, each player gets five mice to start the game. When playing with 3 or 4 players, each player starts with four mice. (The cat’s starting space is adjusted accordingly.)


Learning the rules:

All of the rules can easily be taught to a 4 year old in one play session.


The strategy:

This is a risk vs. reward game. Run with one or two mice to paradise while sacrificing the rest; or herd your mice together? Perhaps a hybrid strategy? Remember there are only four pieces of each size cheese. The further around the board you get the greater the reward.

There is some luck involved – if you believe in that sort of thing. When it comes to die rolling I believe that luck has a way of evening itself out. Sure, there will be a player who seems to always roll four or fives, but that is mostly perception. The laws of probability dictate that 33% of the time a 1/cat will be rolled. Managing the risk correctly is a much greater part of the game than cursed die rolls.

The player with the most volume of cheese wins. For the little kids, comparing cheese hauls presents something of a challenge, but that is part of the fun and a great learning experience! It’s not the number of pieces that wins, but who has the most points in terms of cheese wedges. Each piece, regardless of size is clearly marked in terms of wedges and these can be counted to tally up a player’s score.

The first ‘phase’ of the game takes place as the cat begins the first of his two laps around the board. The mice would be wise to remain behind the cat until the cat has passed the entrance to cheese paradise. As the cat approaches the entrance to cheese paradise, it is also approaching the mouse start space. Important decisions have to made here and now! Abandon all hope for any mice left in the starting area and continue pushing your lead mice to paradise (and six point cheeses)? Or use your die roll here to start a new mouse along the track? This decision must be weighed carefully against the fact that the cat is approaching the two-spaces-per-move phase of the game. It’s often the case that a mouse moved onto the track late is eaten before it can even make for the first door and a single wedge of cheese! Oh, the horror!

By the time the cat makes it to the second ‘phase’ of the game (the two-spaces-per-move phase) players have to kick things up a notch. The game turns into a mad scramble to find safe places to hide: any port in a storm! The cat sweeps around the board a second time sometimes swallowing three and four mice in a single gulp.

As alluded to prior, the game ends abruptly. The mechanics of the game dictate that there are no mice left in play by the time the cat attains the space with the blue arrow (the gate to cheese paradise) a second time. Translated: the cat doesn’t even circumnavigate the board twice!

A player who is too conservative – ducking into safe havens too soon – will quickly discover the error in their ways as they watch the remaining players promote their mice towards greater rewards.

The risk taker may be equally disappointed when they see a series of ‘ones’ rolled and their mouse is swallowed up just outside the door from safety and a delicious piece of cheese.


The theme:

The theme is awesome: Cat-Mice-Cheese. Mice look for cheese; cat chases mice; the mice must run into ‘holes’ for safety; mice get cheese; cat eats mice.

The game mechanics and the theme can be explained hand-in-hand. The artwork on the board is not only visually appealing, but assists in proper placement of pieces during set-up. (The correct cheese pieces are illustrated in each corner!) The playing pieces are superb (with the noted exception that the mice are prone to roll a bit). The scoring pieces are gradations of cheese wedges.


In conclusion:

This game is a blast to play with mixed group of adults/children. I’d venture to guess that it would make a great beer and pretzels game and/or filler game for an adult gaming group – but I’ll leave that for someone else to write-up.

When scoring in the end, young children will also discover how combining smaller pieces of cheese in the correct amount can add up to a complete wheel. (The smallest piece is one sixth of a wheel: they will begin to understand fractions without realizing they are doing so.)

This is a great ‘first risk/reward game’ for kids four years old and older.

Even though I haven’t yet figured out what ‘Viva Topo’ means, we have lots of fun playing this with anywhere from two to four players. I highly recommend Viva Topo!

-BrewB
(Real men play board games with children)
24 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Randy Cox
United States
Clemson
South Carolina
flag msg tools
designer
1024x768 works just fine - Don't Wide the Site!
badge
Missing old BGG
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for the review. After playing The Secret Door and Max, I think the kids will enjoy this one (though the younger isn't 4 yet, so he may have some trouble).

My biggest concern is the willful destruction of a mouse just because no cheese is left in a corner. Wonder if it would unbalance things to get one point per wedge of cheese PLUS one point per surviving mouse?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Goo
United States
Yorba Linda
California
flag msg tools
badge
Try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.
Avatar
mb
BrewB wrote:
Even though I haven’t yet figured out what ‘Viva Topo’ means


I'm pretty sure that 'topo' is Italian for mouse (or maybe rat) as in Topo Gigio. And 'viva' is 'it lives' or more like 'long live.'

Long Live the Mouse!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
...game pleasure in wood
United States
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Gelatinous Goo wrote:
BrewB wrote:
Even though I haven’t yet figured out what ‘Viva Topo’ means


I'm pretty sure that 'topo' is Italian for mouse (or maybe rat) as in Topo Gigio. And 'viva' is 'it lives' or more like 'long live.'

Long Live the Mouse!


or Hooray Mouse!

or Three Cheers for the Mouse!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.