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SPINDERELLA: Zock Zum Spielen.  
2-4 players of 6 years and older. Author: Roberto Fraga.

     

Well it seems that I am about to repeat myself again when it comes to reviewing and chatting about ZOCH kids games. SPINDERELLA is most definitely a children's game. It is bright and colourful with beautifully illustrated, fun-looking, spiders (thanks to Doris Matthäus) and a 3D board that cleverly clips together around and over the base playing board that is supported by the game box. My only concern about the canopy is that there are 4 plastic pop-off clips that hold the forest canopy in place and these are likely to break with the amount of use this game is likely to receive. Unless you have somewhere safe where you can leave the game set up then unfortunately assembly and disassembly are something you must get used to. Suggestion: Don't let 6 year olds set the game up.

So, back to repeating myself. ZOCH publish (mainly) children's and family friendly games, and as such they are supposed to be played with that element of family fun that isn't consistent with most strategy "gamers" games. The thing is, us supposed experienc ed hard core gamers at Games Gazette Online often tend to look past the obviously intended and discover hidden gems amongst the Kids v Parents fun aspects.

On the face of it, this is a simple game where the players each have three tiny ants that they move along the forest path trying to get them to their home on the opposite side of the board. The players roll 3 dice, one of which is a regular 6 sided die (the Brown die), one is a 1, 2 & 3 (x2) die (the Black die) and the other is a special device that shows Leaf x 2 Ant x 2 and Spider x 2 on its six sides.

On their turn the players roll all 3 dice and then act on the result of the special die. If it is an Ant they move one ant of their colour as many spaces as shown on the Brown die. If it is a Spider they move the Spiders as determined by the Black die and if it is a Leaf they can move either the Ant or the Spider, plus you get to move the Tree Stump (which is translated as "Tree Bark" in the rules booklet).

          

It seems a fairly basic race game. Roll the dice and hope to move your ants around the board. Only of course it isn't quite as simple because the Tree Stump can be moved over the ants, thus preventing them from moving until it is moved again, and also because in the branches of the trees that form the forest's leafy pathways there live a family of hungry spiders who like nothing better than to drop down on an unsuspecting ant and gobble him up (although to be fair, the ant always manages to escape their clutches and returns to the starting space, so no ants are injured during the playing of the game).

The two spiders on top of the canopy move independently of each other, spreading the value of their Black die movement between them if the player so wishes. The only rule is that these are really baby spiders who don't like to be far away from each other and so they can never be more than two branches (red dots) apart. In the branches beneath them is mummy spider, on the lookout for ants and she is attached to her babies by a thin silky web line. As the baby spiders move across the branches so mummy spider swings up and down and side to side below them. Thanks to her magnetic charm if she manages to be manoeuvered directly above an ant there is a fair chance her personality (magnet) will attract the ant and it will fly up to meet her open arms. If you want to be technical, the spiders are linked by string that goes through a pulley system and the hanging spider has a magnet in it, and the ants have a metal strip in them, and thus the magnet attracts the metal. But if you know that then the magic of the spider catching the ants is lost - so don't read the bit you just read, okay? (at least not out loud to your children).

The tree stump can be climbed onto or over (depending on die roll result) and the ants can even balance on top of each other - though there are certain restrictions concerning the tree stump for both sitting on top of it and being underneath it. Ants can also carry each other along the pathways. If an ant with another or others on top of it is moved then all of those above it move with it, staying in the same position in the stack; any ants under the moving ant remain where they sit. The tree stump does prevent movement of the ants underneath it but it also protects them from the spider, so it is a good/bad thing. As there are two leaf icons on the special die the Tree Stump will be moved quite regularly, so being trapped or safe is only for a short time.

     

Children playing with families will merrily move their ants and the spiders without putting too much thought to it, and thus the approximation of a 20 minute game is correct. However, put four gamers around the table and all of a sudden every die roll is carefully considered as is every move. Even if that move gives no options per se (the die shows an ant and all ant are on the start position, for example,) the gamer will still be looking at the spiders, and thinking about the future possible moves; it's no wonder gamers children grow up with different views on life to non-gamer kids.

Apart from the plastic clip possible problem, as previously mentioned, the only other minor nuisance is that the canopy blocks most of the overhead light and thus casts a great shadow over the forest below. For playing this can make it a little difficult to see clearly, but on the bright side (pun intended) it does represent the shadowy depths and atmosphere of an actual forest.

Winner of the Kritikerpreis 2015 for Children's games, SPINDERELLA is a family game that can be played over and over by parents and children without losing its fun factor. Core gamers will find it a great way to start or end their evening's game session on a high.

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015