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Subject: How to be a Real Cuckoo... A Review rss

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Sean Tompkins
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San Antonio
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Never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line!
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Your first play of this game you might think this is a cute little dexterity game made for kids, similar to KerPlunk or Pick Up Sticks. Towards the end of your first game things start to get a little mean, and you wonder if maybe you are wrong... then the gloves come off, and things escalate quickly.

OK, I'm getting ahead of myself. A little about the rules of this game. You are a cuckoo bird, trying to lay your eggs in this nest. Players draw sticks out of the nest, and if the color on both ends of a stick match, they place all of the sticks (up to 3) that they drew across the nest, then have the option of placing their egg into the nest. If any stick falls and touches the table, the player loses the chance to place an egg. Additionally, if the egg you place falls into the can, or if any other egg already placed falls your turn ends and you must take an egg from the player who has the most eggs left. After all your eggs are gone, you must on your next turn place the hatched birdie into the nest to win.

Visually the game is very striking - you really do build a nest-looking structure, and all the colored ends of the sticks really make a visual statement. As with almost any HABA game the colors and shapes are neat too look at, and make you hope the game behind them is actually fun.

You COULD play this as a simple kid's dexterity game, and like Gulo Gulo they'd probably clean your clock with their pincer-like fingers weaving through the hair-trigger maze of sticks (yes, that is the bitter voice of experience). But the beauty of this game is that you can play it with a full complement of adults, and the game is just as (or even more) fun.

First, let me tell you something I learned about cuckoo birds while playing this game. Another person at the table mentioned that cuckoos are the jerks of the bird world. Many species of cuckoo will lay their eggs in the nests of other birds (even other species) and then fly away to continue to live their hipster lifestyles unencumbered by little ones. The gullible recipient raises the cuckoo offspring as their own, but the cuckoo hatches earlier and grows faster than the other chicks, so typically consumes most of the food. In addition, the young cuckoo will often kick the unhatched eggs out of the nest! If Jerry Springer was a bird, his entire career would be predicated on the tricks cuckoos play on other birds.

Anyway, the reason all that is important is that this behavior in somehow instinctively taught by this game - at first you are all nice and friendly, and then you realize that if the other players cause damage to the nest, you still get to pass off your eggs - so you start placing your nest-sticks more and more precariously. Then when you get to place your eggs, you place them in such a way that they are a giant booby-trap waiting to go off with the slightest wrong movement. Soon people are becoming more and more creative and devious in their placements - balancing sticks on the very tip tops of the other sticks you need to remove still, or placing them on the very outside of the nest where they can easily roll off, or using wobbly sticks as counter-balance triggers... and it becomes a war of escalation. I saw someone balance a stick on one single other stick, and it just swayed back and forth in the slight air currents daring the next player to try to draw without breathing outward...

Soon even the most steady handed player is drawing sticks with fingertip precision, centimeters at a time, holding their breaths, hearts racing. The relief you feel when you draw a stick, and the colors match, and you know you're safe and the nest hasn't collapsed is amazing. What follows immediately after that is the realization that you're only halfway done with this fool's errand - you now have to place your stick(s) back ONTO this minefield of a nest - and try to place an egg in there as well. Successfully pull it off, and you're feeling pretty cocky. Pull it off in a creative and mean-spirited show of cuckoo-ness, and you will delight in the insults hurled at you and the groans of despair from the other players.

We learned this game at a convention, and I took it upon myself to show this gem off to others - I cajoled many a reluctant gamer into playing it - "It's only ten minutes, just this once, c'mon"... There were several types of people who were sure this game wasn't for them... they weren't huge fans of dexterity games, they didn't play kids' games, etc... Those players ended up being the MOST intense, cutthroat players you've ever seen ten minutes later.

I am not lying when I say that at BGG.con where I tried maybe 20 new games of all varieties, this game landed in my top 3, and was an instant buy that I immediately took home to play with my family (3 kids) and with other gamers. I've yet to find someone who really disliked the game at all, and found many other fans. So if you're interested in dexterity games that can be played with either kids or adults, and ESPECIALLY if you like games where you can mess with other players, this is a winner. Soon you and your game-mates will be using "cuckoo" as a pejorative against someone who does something rude and unbecoming toward a fellow human being!
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Víktor Bautista i Roca

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seanp wrote:

You COULD play this as a simple kid's dexterity game, and like Gulo Gulo they'd probably clean your clock with their pincer-like fingers weaving through the hair-trigger maze of sticks (yes, that is the bitter voice of experience). But the beauty of this game is that you can play it with a full complement of adults, and the game is just as (or even more) fun.

[...]

Anyway, the reason all that is important is that this behavior in somehow instinctively taught by this game - at first you are all nice and friendly, and then you realize that if the other players cause damage to the nest, you still get to pass off your eggs - so you start placing your nest-sticks more and more precariously. Then when you get to place your eggs, you place them in such a way that they are a giant booby-trap waiting to go off with the slightest wrong movement. Soon people are becoming more and more creative and devious in their placements - balancing sticks on the very tip tops of the other sticks you need to remove still, or placing them on the very outside of the nest where they can easily roll off, or using wobbly sticks as counter-balance triggers... and it becomes a war of escalation. I saw someone balance a stick on one single other stick, and it just swayed back and forth in the slight air currents daring the next player to try to draw without breathing outward...

Soon even the most steady handed player is drawing sticks with fingertip precision, centimeters at a time, holding their breaths, hearts racing. The relief you feel when you draw a stick, and the colors match, and you know you're safe and the nest hasn't collapsed is amazing. What follows immediately after that is the realization that you're only halfway done with this fool's errand - you now have to place your stick(s) back ONTO this minefield of a nest - and try to place an egg in there as well. Successfully pull it off, and you're feeling pretty cocky. Pull it off in a creative and mean-spirited show of cuckoo-ness, and you will delight in the insults hurled at you and the groans of despair from the other players.


You have really learnt the spirit of the game!

Signed: one of the authors.
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