Unplugged: Pingo Pingo (Boardgame)

PingoPingo_3DboxTake Slapjack, add in some silliness and a dart pistol and you have the kid-friendly boardgame Pingo Pingo. Accompanied by a changing soundtrack, players take turns playing cards and watching for the right conditions to slap the pile and claim a treasure. Meanwhile, events come up forcing a player to perform one of several actions, which include shooting at targets with the supplied gun. Mistakes cost a life point, and the player with the most treasures (and not dead) wins the game. Loads of silliness packed into a cool 15 minutes, Pingo Pingo is great for a family game night.


Pingo Pingo
Publisher: IELLO
Ages: 6+
Players: 2-5
Time: 15 mins
(Review copy provided by IELLO)

In Pingo Pingo, players take on the role of explorers landing on an unknown island full of a tribe of penguins. Each player begins with 7 health and a deck of cards. Play starts by turning on the 15 minute soundtrack (on CD or downloadable MP3) which is used to narrate the game. The soundtrack alternates between a daytime sound (jungle drums) and a nighttime sound (crickets.) These sounds are punctuated by the occasional cry of “Pingo Pingo.”


Gameplay consists of the players take turns flipping up cards from their deck. Cards either show treasures or actions. If a player flips up an (orange bordered) action card, they must complete that task before the next cry of “Pingo Pingo” or lose a health point. The rest of the cards are either treasure cards or camp cards (which let you steal treasures from other players.) The first player to slap an appropriate treasure or camp card wins the card. Treasure cards are kept to one side while camp cards allow the winner to steal two treasures from other players.

pingo cards

What makes the game challenging are the changing conditions. Each treasure and camp card displays either a day or a night scene. A card is only eligible to be slapped if it also matches the time of day (as signified by the sounds on the soundtrack.) In addition, for each type of card (day/night, treasure/camp) there are some cards displaying a “trap.” This can be as obvious as a snake in the grass below the treasure or more hidden, as in a small statue in the background of the camp scene. If a player ever slaps a card of the wrong time or day, or a card containing a trap, they lose a life. Lose all seven of your lives and you’re out of the game. In addition, at the end of the game players may only “keep” three treasures for each of their remaining life. This prevents a “slap-first ask questions later” mode of gameplay.

pengo cards

What makes the game zany are the event cards. When a player reveals an event card they must perform that action before the next cry of “Pingo Pingo” occurs on the soundtrack. Most actions involve paper stand-ups that are scattered around the room. When a player reveals a bridge card, they must run back and forth across the room to touch the two bridge stand-ups before the next cry of Pingo Pingo. Revealing a Space Penguin statue forces players to run over to touch the ship card (ostensively to grab the gun hidden there, although you keep the gun on the table), and then run back and use the dart gun to shoot the Space Penguin stand-up. Reveal a bear raider card (bearing a polar bear bearing a penguin rider), and you simply have to use the gun to shoot the bear rider card before the next Pingo Pingo card. Reveal the penguin attack card, and you have to take all the central cards and deal them back out to the players (who put them on the bottom of their main deck) before the next Pingo Pingo cry. The final event card shows the Monkey Sorcerer. The first player to slap the sorcerer gains back a life point! (Beware, if you slap the sorcerer without any wounds, he will wound you instead of heal you.)


The game continues with players playing cards, the soundtrack changing between day and night sounds, and the occasional Pingo Pingo chant. Since the soundtrack lasts for precisely 15 minutes, the game always takes precisely 15 minutes to play. With such strict time limits, it is easy to decide whether you have time for one or two (or more) games.

This is just a great game. There are so many reasons why it makes it fun for a family. First, the time limit makes sure the game doesn’t go on too long and become boring. Second, it is age-neutral. The box says 6+ and since all the cards are clearly labeled from the artwork (and accompanying symbols) the game is very playable by 6 year olds. Even reaction time isn’t the most important, as my younger son nearly won just by having the most life left at the end of the game. Finally, the game is silly (which is great) and easy to understand, but the game still requires a bit of skill. The fact that you get to load up a pirate’s pistol with darts and shoot them at targets doesn’t hurt either. Highly recommended for families or people who are not shy about having a good time.



Kid Factor:
As mentioned, the game only relies on art and some symbols which makes the game easy to play even if you don’t have any reading skills. It should be playable with kids as young as 4 or 5, although it does take just a little effort to cock the dart gun. (You could always just do this for them.) The art is colorful and silly and doesn’t glorify anything inappropriate. The timing is just right. 15 minutes feels like a while but is still short enough to hold everyone’s attention. I also like how the game does not require an age-dependant skill. The youngest might often be the slowest, but that may also mean they make fewer mistakes. The camp cards can be problematic, as you can take both treasures from the same person, but an astute adult can also use that to their advantage to keep any leaders in check.

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