Unplugged: HABA Games 2016

cliff cardAs a parent looking for games to play with my kids, I am always impressed at the quality and durability of titles from HABA.  With quality cardboard and wooden parts, they sometimes aren’t cheap (although these titles are relatively inexpensive) but components are first rate.  While my oldest child is now able to play more strategic games with dad, he still enjoys playing these when we get together for a family gaming moment with the entire family.  Here’s a few HABA games I’ve played in the past few months, starting with my favorites.





kaskaria layout

Heroes of Kaskaria   5+ yrs, 2-5 p, $30

kaskaria boxIf you read my holiday guide a few weeks back, you’ll already know about Heroes of Kaskaria.  Every once in awhile, I come across a great kid’s game that I could conceivably plunk down in front of a bunch of grown-up gamers and we can all enjoy a quick game “filler” at the start or end of a night of gaming.  The Heroes of Kaskaria has simple rules so that any age player could win, but it also provides players with interesting choices such that a strategic player will have a better chance of success.  The idea is for players to participate in two simultaneous races.  The faster moving Cliff Runners approach the peak from one side and the Scaled Griffons from the other.  Players either pick up two cards or play a set of cards of matching color (but not both draw and play.)  Cards either grant points (in the form of gems), two additional cards, or move one’s animals (runner or griffon) closer to the peak.  There are more runner cards than griffon cards, but the griffon route to the top is shorter.  When one animal (runner OR griffon) reaches the peak, the game ends and bonus points are awarded for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place of both runner and griffon.  The player with the most points (from animals and previous cards) is declared the winner.  The board and pieces are great and draw the young folks into the game.  The interesting decisions come when players decide whether to play their cards now (and move forward on the race) or draw more cards and hope to play more matching cards at once.  (For grown-ups, I highly recommend using the optional rules that reward players for playing multiple cards of the same color and type.)  Some kid boardgames float into and out of my collection, but I expect The Heroes of Kaskaria to stay around on a permanent basis.

Rating: I love it.


logic layout

Logic Labyrinth   5+ yrs, 2-5 p, $7.50

logic boxLogic Labyrinth is a small-box game centered around a race to place one’s tiles in a formation so that all their paths connect.  Each round, a die is rolled and players draw that many path cards and then race to place them down in a formation so that all paths on adjoining tiles line up correctly.  Matching any tile pair is not assured, as every tile has three exits that can appear in any of five possible positions on a side.  The first players to correctly complete their design grab one of the available treasure tiles in the middle, with the last player to finish losing out entirely.  Paths are then double-checked and anyone with an incorrect arrangement loses their treasure and it is claimed by the last player (even if they didn’t finish.)  Occasionally, the die will display a genie instead of a number.  When that occurs, players race to put their tiles down with adjoining paths and in a specific card pattern (such as a “T” shape, a “U” shape, a line, or perhaps some sort of zigzag.)  The game continues for four rounds and then players total up the value of their treasures to determine a winner.  Logic Labyrinth is a great little portable game.  The box is small enough but I can even slip the dice and cards into a little ziplock and carry it in my pocket if I wish.  As a “speed” game, it will consistently favor the fastest player.  A player who is slightly faster on average will consistently win rounds, ending up with a lopsided victory.  Played with kids, I enjoy the puzzle aspects and I can enjoy myself even if I choose not to “race” too hard.  Of course, playing against my wife, all bets are off but I still end up losing.  The speed aspect makes it less attractive for games between kids of more than a couple year’s difference but the short game time means losing a game is only a 10 minute experience.

Rating: I like it.



princess layout
Princess Mina – Jewel Matching Game   4+ yrs, 2-4 p, $12

princess boxThis is a cute little inexpensive title in a little pink box.  As the title says, this is a jewel matching game.  Players start the game with a cardboard amulet, hanging from an actual string.  Player take turns flipping up cardboard jewels in the center of the board.  If a match is made (both color and shape), the player gets to add the found jewels to each side of their necklace.  There are 36 total jewels in four different shapes, which helps when trying to find a match.  There is a black jewel for each of the four shapes so there are a total of 18 unique matches.  While not lending themselves to any strategy, matching games still require a bit of thought so even if a parent isn’t setting out to win, there’s something here to keep their attention.  Matching games are a dime a dozen, but the theme (and the idea of having different shapes) makes Princess Mina more interesting than many others.  Being able to “wear” one’s necklace after the game ends is just icing on the cake!

Rating: I like it.




catapult layout


Splish Splash Catapult   5+ yrs, 2-5 p, $7.50

catapult boxSplish Splash Catapult is a cute dexterity game in a small package.  Player are attempting to flip (using a supplied wooden seesaw) cardboard balloon tokens onto eight round cardboard targets in the middle of the game area. (The difficulty of the game is decreased if the targets are very close together.)  On one’s turn, a player selects a balloon token (either in the starting pile or one that had missed in earlier rounds) and launches it with the seesaw.  If it lands on one of the targets, the player claims it as a prize.  They also claim any balloons in the play area that match the color of their launched balloon token.  Play continues until all the balloons in the starting pile have been launched.  There is a modicum of strategy (try to pick balloons that will match the color of ones already lying around) but the game is mostly technique.  Unfortunately, I (and my teenaged opponents) found the “catapult” to be very hard to use effectively.  Basically, anyone who got their tokens to land anywhere near the targets won the game.  Admittedly, our tokens were not extremely close together (which I now highly recommend) but even with a denser board the catapult is not straightforward to use.   As a family game with somewhat “random” results, it plays just fine.  Gamers who want a more cutthroat game that heavily rewards technique may want to look elsewhere.

Rating: Not for me.



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