Family Game Night: TURTLE SPLASH

One of the most common questions I get asked by family members starting in October and ending a few days before Christmas is “what game do you recommend for children?” (I am not disappointed, even if I always expect the topic to be choice of “worker placement game” and not “kid’s game”.) But I come from a large family of large families — Christmas get togethers regular feature 60-80 people — and they all know I play games with my two grand bugs, a lot.

By a lot, I mean that I am lucky to have two little ones that love to play games as much as their pop-pop. They are just starting to learn to read, so I expect that the next few years are going to be even better because reading adds so many more games to explore.

But, they are not strong enough readers yet to play Baseball Highlights:2045 or Paladins of the West Kingdom yet. That’s okay, I’ve been fortunate enough lately that publishers have sent me some very good games to try out with the kiddos.

For me to talk highly of a children’s game or family game, it has to be easy to explain to a child (usually two or three simple rules at most), take no more than 10-20 minutes, and have something interesting for adults to do. That’s why Haba’s First Orchard hits the mark so well. It’s as much fun for adults to try and beat the crow, even though it is essentially just random chance, as it is for kids.

The “interesting for adults” thing sometimes knocks out your standard memory games in our house, though. I grew up with aunts and uncles who would find some game that had an intellectual property we would enjoy but would be essentially just a matching game. Pretty boring, if you ask me.

That’s why I was hesitant jus un ‘tit peu when I read the rules for Turtle Splash, a new kid’s game that Lucky Duck Games is promoting as part of their children’s line, at least here in the States. Put out a tableau of animal cards face down and we have to memorize where they are to win? Hmm…hmmmmm….

But fear not fellow memory-challenged gamer. If you have the ability to memorize the second verse to REM’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), like you know you do, then surely you will excel at the little bit of memory in this game.

In Turtle Splash, players enter a lovely little part of the world, where the animals are secretly gathering beside a serene lake. (I heard they were all attending WaterCon, where the animals play the latest hot board games and watch The Mice Tower live show). Next to the lake, in classic River Country style, is a giant slide that will launch the animals into the lake with a tremendous splash. (Splash effects, not included.) Our task? Be the first person to collect all the animals by sliding the turtle into the lake a taking guesses as to which animals are there.

I probably could have done a better job of explaining that, so let me try again with verve. On your turn, players will flick the turtle disc down a ramp Crokinole-style. The closer it lands to the center of the lake, the more tiles you get to flip up. Each of the twelve tiles represents one of twelve animals that are pictured on your player board. But there’s a catch, you have to find the animals in order AND each player board has the order a little bit differently. So, the game teaches a valuable skill in watching where other players find certain animals and somehow remembering that fact instead of whether The Peripheral comes out on Friday night or Saturday morning.

Sure, adults are going to be a little better at flicking the disc into the pond, most of the time. But, there’s a cool little “catch up” mechanism. If ever your little bug flips up tiles that don’t match the next animals on the board, instead of having to deal with crying, the game gives that player a little life preserver token.

The preserver can be used on the next turn to get a bonus flip. I guarantee your little one will be gunning for the chance to flip three tiles, because then they will proudly tell you, “I’m flipping FOUR tiles this turn, Pop-Pop”. And rub it in your face with a wicked little gleam.

It’s all in good fun. We’ve played this a half-dozen times or more already, and the girls never get tired of it. They love when I forget where the Red Panda is, especially if they revealed “the secret location” a couple of turns before and I didn’t remember. They absolutely love getting the turtle in the center and flipping over a bunch of tiles. And they love beating me pretty regularly without any real help or handicap.

It’s pretty easy to figure out, after only a few plays, why they both like this game so much.

I think it’s the combination of a little bit of dexterity, a little bit of memory, and a little bit of progression in competition that subtly reels them in. The art in the game also does a good job of toning down the competition. It’s still a competitive racing game, but the cuddly animals and quiet lake all combine to make this a nice shared experience.

Yes, I’ve already recommended this a couple of times for friends. Yes, I have already purchased an extra copy to give out as a Christmas present for one of my siblings’ kids (that’s putting your money where your recommendations are, right?) And yes, every time the girls come over, the first game they want to break out is usually Turtle Splash (or Magic Mountain, another game we recommend.)

It’s got lakes. It’s got cute animals. It’s a great introduction to Crokinole, and has an educational component of improving memory skills. Turtle Splash is a good one to check out this holiday season, and if the quality of this game is any indication, I am going to keep an eye out for Lucky Duck’s family weight games in the future.

But if it is not too cheeky of me to ask, I would love a Louisiana expansion with alligators and egrets — or maybe even a rougaroo! — for this game…..so get to work Joel Escalante and Rafael Escalante!

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ from Board Game Gumbo

A complimentary copy was provided by the publisher.

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