SCHMATZ SPATZ ZOCH zum Spielen / Noris Spiel
This is a real family game for 2-4 players with youngsters from 4 years and upwards. It is the type of game
most parents would be happy to play with their children, though maybe the 15-20 minute game time is a
little too long for the youngest player in the 4+ group to keep their interest.
Before the first game there is a small amount of assembly; this is where Mummy or Daddy are required the
most. There are corner stickers - 6 are provided so you have a couple of back-ups in case of error or wear - to
be peeled off the backing paper and carefully placed on the plastic insert. Then the wooden pegs (4) have to be
positioned carefully through the main board (aka the nest disk) so that there are mini perches for the wonderful
wooden bird pieces have a place to rest (or roost) during the game.
The pieces are typical of Zoch games - colourful, sturdy and visually appealing. It is most likely that children and
their parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents etc will easily be drawn to this at first sight. The rules are simple enough
to explain to young players and to let them play semi-supervised - four year olds have been known to throw things
and although the birds are made of a lightish wood they could still cause a bruise or two if hurled at young skin. I
use the term semi-supervised because I believe that as long as someone is watching for "temperamental accidents"
then the game is playable by kids without an adult in the player mix.
The playing board or nest shows 12 hungry chicks with slits for their open mouths. The outer edge of the top board,
the nest is made of three parts that lay on top of each other, has four long viewing slots through which can be seen
the various locations that appear on the special die. The other components, worms and beaks, are made of heavy duty
card which is necessary as they are all, at times, pushed through the open mouth slots of the hungry birds. As kids do
have a tendency to be a little rough when it comes to letter-boxing these pieces, which are vital to the game, would soon
become damaged if the card quality wasn't as good as this is.
The game is played in turns, each player taking their turn in clockwise order, one after the other. The first thing a player does
is to select one of the Birds - this is usually done by the player calling out the bird's colour. Then the player rolls the die and
rotates the top board of the nest until the next terrain location that is represented by the die result is in front of the chosen bird.
If the bird is at the terrain showing on the die before it is moved the bird must still be moved to the next similar location.
Once the nest has stopped rotating the player has to select one of the three Chicks of the colour of chosen Bird. The principle of
the game mechanic is the board moving so that it (under)covers and uncovers the beak slots so that worms fed to the Chicks will
either eaten or rejected. If the worm goes through to the bottom of the box it has been eaten, the Chick is full and a Beak piece is
placed in the Chicks mouth to show it is no longer hungry. if the worm sticks in the Beak slot, therefore not going through, then
the bird is currently not hungry and thus rejects the food - rejected worms are discarded from the game.
If there are no worms remaining to feed the Chicks and not all the Chicks are fed, then the game wins and the players lose. If the
Chicks have all been fed then the players win jointly. There is a slightly more grown-up version of the game as a variant which
has the players each beginning with 5 worms and instead of discarding them when they are rejected they get them back in their
supply. Once the thrid Chick of a colour has been fed, the other two Chicks of the same colour are hungry again and their Beak
stoppers are removed. The first player to run out of worms wins.
We have also played our own variant whereby the worms are in a general supply and the players each have a set of Chicks to feed.
The players select one of the Birds, by colour, at the beginning of the game and the first player to feed all of their three Chicks wins.
Here at Games Gazette we often find Zoch's family/children games to have hidden gamers-game strategies and that they are as well
suited to adults as they are children/families. Occasionally though we find one that although it is fun to play with youngsters or to
watch younger players enjoy playing it - this is one of those games, strictly for the family fledglings.