Family Game Night: PACO’S PARTY review

Sometimes the simplest things in life bring the most joy. Grilling up a couple of links of boudin to share with friends. Sitting on the back porch with a good book, a cold Mt Dew, and a nice Saturday morning breeze. Or playing a card game with the little ones.

I’ve detailed in this blog my earliest memories of playing card games with my grandmother. She taught me how to play Bataille (our Cajun version of ‘War’) when I was very young. My uncle’s family taught us how to play Old Maid and Crazy 8s. My mom taught me solitaire (and how to win occasionally). And my dad loved card games of all kinds, like Pit, Blackjack, and Rack-o.

So when Blue Orange sent me a new card game called Paco’s Party, and it seemed geared to the very youngest set, I was excited to try it with my bugs. I even enlisted their help in busting open the mailing container and looking at the game for the first time.

Paco’s Party is a brand new game from Blue Orange Games that plays from 2-6 players. It is designed by Thierry Denoual with art from Simon Douchy, and is geared for ages 5+ (although my little four year old bug loves it the best).

The game is easily houseruled, because the object of the game can essentially be modified by the play style or length you want. However, the actual rules are that the deck is split up between the players face down. Players take turns flipping over a card to the center of the table.

Each card has depictions of a wonderful birthday party hosted by Paco (the parrot) and his friends (a monkey, hippo, and lion). What are the elements of a great birthday party? Of course, it’s cake, birthday hats, and presents!

On the cards, one of those above items will be missing. Maybe Coco the monkey skipped the party this time? Players will race to see who or what is missing and call it out before anyone else notices. If they do, they get the card, and can flip over one of their own cards.

There’s a catch — sometimes everyone is at the party and all of the party elements are present, too.

What does that mean?

It means that it is time for a party — a Paco Party! Once one player calls it out, players are encouraged to have fun at the party.

For us, this means that my bugs invented the Paco Party dance. It is an intricate set of moves involving some twirling, a lot of hopping, and, of course, singing “Paco’s Party — it’s the best party” over and over, until everyone collapses in a heap.

This may be another one of our house rules, but the game is just made for adding on fun little “rules” like that.

Once the deck runs out, players count up the number of cards that they grabbed and declare a winner. Or, you can do like we do at Chez Gumbo, and try to finish up with a Paco’s Party card so everybody is the winner.

Paco’s Party comes in one of the coolest little card game boxes around. It fits in the palm of your hand, about the size of an Oink Games’ box, but opens up with a magnetic clasp lip that the girls just love.

The artwork is absolutely fun, in that Dreamworks sort of way, with animals that have bright expressive smiles. I like how it has a dreamy, faded look to it, almost like a classic game from your childhood, yet with bright color choices that invite players in.

For the price of the game, this one is a great little production.

But back to the gameplay itself. This is not going to be something you are going to bring to your game night, but that’s not what it is intended to do. Blue Orange Games is well known for their family friendly line of games, and this is one of those games that you can bring out on a rainy day with the kids or grandkids, or have ready whenever family get togethers are going strong.

The game is super easy to teach — here’s a card, look for what’s missing — and each person essentially has a cheat sheet because their hand of cards has every element on the back of the cards.

Sure, there may be a little hard feelings among the little ones if a run of guesses means that they are not picking up cards. I leave the social commentary of taking it a little easy, or learning to share the lead, is what you want to do with your own family.

In our family, we try hard to win, but we also handicap ourselves a bit with the youngest of the young. And sometimes, instead of going by who won, we houserule that a couple of wins in a row means that someone else gets to lay down a card.

It’s all in good fun, and the real object of the game is learning to win and lose with grace while working on those instant recognition skills.

Of the three games that Blue Orange recently sent us for review, (Block Ness, Paco’s Party, and the soon to be reviewed Wilson & Shep), this has been by far the biggest hit with the youngest one.

Yes, Block Ness is much more fun for the adults, and Wilson & Shep is better than my little bugs give it, but Paco’s Party has been a hit from day one and continues to be played.

And really, playing silly little card games with your four-to-eight yearolds to help improve their memory, recognition skills, and dexterity while having fun — isn’t that what playing games is all about?

Until next time, Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

— BJ @boardgamegumbo

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