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Subject: Playing Whoowasit? with my 3 (almost 4!) year old son rss

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Jon Cooper
United States
Indiana
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My family and I received Whoowasit? as a Christmas gift in 2011 from my brother's family. Since then, we've been able to pull it out several times - always at the request of our three year old son - well, closer to four years old at this point (just a few weeks...). We've really enjoyed playing it together as a family (3p), so I thought I'd take some time to give it a review.

Our gaming background We're pretty solid euro-gamers with a respectable repertoire of American style games, including some miniature war games. Our most recent favorites include Merchants & Marauders, 7 Wonders, Quarriors, Ora et Labora, and the new 2-3p Ticket to Ride: Asia map. My son has his own collection of Haba and Ravensburger games, among other publishers - his favorites include Knuckling Knights, Mon Premier Verger, Pengoloo, and Kids of Carcassonne.

How to play the game Whoowasit is a co-operative game for 2-4 players, and is listed as ages 7-99, designed by Knizia. Our games take around 35 minutes. The object is to deduce who stole the king's magical ring - the fluff background is that an evil wizard will take over the kingdom by 6:00 unless the players are able to find the ring, which is the only thing that will defeat the wizard.

The 6:00 time limit is important to the game: the game begins at noon. Every time players take an action, time is used up. Central to the game is the electronic chest, which will chime the hourly change. If the players can work together to figure out who was enchanted by the evil wizard to steal the king's ring before 6:00, they've won the game - otherwise, the wizard will rule.

The game board portrays a ten room castle. In each room is an animal, and some rooms also have stars surrounding certain objects - these represent magical items. The electronic chest has 15 buttons, ten of which match the animals in the castle. On a player's turn, he rolls the die. This indicates how many rooms he may move - anywhere from 0 to the number rolled. After moving (or standing still), he presses the button on the electronic chest that matches the animal in his current room. Then, he must choose an action.

Players have five actions to choose from. They can search the room; speak with the animal; feed the animal; perform magic; or guess the thief's identity. Searching around a room often yields food that can then be fed to the animals who will then divulge whatever information they may have concerning the thief's identity. In this way, players are able to eliminate possible suspects. At the start of each game, there are ten suspects, represented by cardboard tokens. These are discarded as identifying characteristics indicate that such-and-such is not the thief (eg, "the thief is not thin").

All of this happens through the electronic chest: You push the button representing the room you're in, and then an action button. The animal (or some other character, including a narrator) then gives you instructions and/or information. It basically takes over the role of a random card draw, but without the reading or shuffling - instead, you only need 3 AA batteries!

When players have narrowed down the final suspect, they race to the room and open up that character's chest to see if they are correct. If they are, they've won the game.

So what do we think about it?

There are a few more elements to the game that I've left out, but what I've explained represents the basic idea. Those extra elements do, however, give the game some fun twists. For example, there is a ghost that roams around the castle on a dedicated path, moving every (probabilistically) third die roll (the five and six faces of the die are replaced by a ghost icon). This ghost will send your playing pieces crying back to the nursery and prevent your entrance into its current room.

There are also some fun (and funny) elements from the electronic chest: trap doors that spit you out onto the castle courtyard, magic that sometimes backfires, a helpful fairy, and even the evil wizard shows up sometimes to taunt your progress.

In short: it's a lot of fun. But I wanted to highlight just how much fun this is for my four year old. The game is slated for 7 and up, and for that age range, I can't necessarily speak (except to say that this is a children's game...in other words, Pandemic it is not). But for my four year old, it's an absolute hit. Thematically, he's in love with it: the first hour or two of the game (that is, in the game's universe) he spends running around looking for the secret switch to open up the dungeon so he can go see what the dragon wants to eat. The next two hours are spent opening up the door to the tower so we can chat it up with the owl.

Needless to say, we lose a lot because we run out of time

In addition, he gets a kick out of the electronic chest - he's already gone Pavlov on us with the sound effects. For example, as soon as he hears the ghost's "whoo-oo-ooo!", he stands up, very seriously, and looks at the ghost with great intent. Also, whenever it starts to chime, he immediately looks at our own wall-clock, just to double check.

But best of all, it's one of "daddy's games" (he makes this distinction because we keep it in the game closet, rather than on the top shelf of his closet with his other games) with which he gets to fully engage. Because it's co-op, we can help him without "helping" him. Plus, he intuitively loves co-op games (somehow, Eleminis becomes a team effort when we play with him). Really, it comes down to the lack of text: he does not have to have mommy or daddy read anything to him, so he truly gets to immerse himself in the game play. Instead, for all intents and purposes, the electronic chest is reading to him. But because it's part of the game, it makes all the difference. Even in Castle Panic, where he has memorized most of the card pictures and what they mean, we still have to read certain cards to him. Not so in Whoowasit? - he gets to make his own move, interpret the game world on his own terms, and fully take part in the game experience.

And I want to end on that note: it is an experience for him. The first time we played, it was just for a two player daddy-son gaming afternoon. My wife was out on errands with our baby daughter, and he asked to play Knock Your Blocks Off. We opened up the game cabinet, and he saw Whoowasit - eyes went wide, hands went limply to the side, and voice lifted in restrained supplication. We pulled it out, found some batteries, and played two or three times in about an hour and a half. For the rest of the night, he was telling his mom about how we turned back time with the clock in the witch's tower, how the dragon ate cheese, and how we had saved the kingdom from the evil wizard with the magic ring. Pure. Awesome.

It is Dark Tower for my preschooler.
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Rebekah B
United States
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Nice review for a great game thumbsup.

My son also got this for Christmas, and it's been a huge hit here as well. It does a good job of creating a story arc during play, so I think it would really appeal to kids who get into the story and theme of a game.

Quote:
The game is slated for 7 and up, and for that age range, I can't necessarily speak

It's gone over really well with both my 8yo son and my 5yo daughter. My 10yo daughter hasn't taken much interest in it, but she's more likely to ask to play more "grown-up" games.
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Andreas
Germany
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I think its a wonderful game. 3 years seems to be quite young i would usually take this for a 5year old or older, maybe up to 10. I was for a long time interested but its difficult to get if You are a cheapskate, means expensive new and still expensive used. But I got it from the library for our gaming group of handicapped persons and it is a superb game. One of the handicapped saved us on a 1 in 4 chance. You cant imagine his delight and sense of achievement. Great game that i can really recommend. OK for those that are not cheapskates like me.

If its not considered bad taste here is the geeklist for the group: http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/102803/gaming-with-handica...
 
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Gertrude McFuzz

New York
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Great review. My son is turning 4 in a couple of weeks and I've been looking for the perfect jaw dropping game for his birthday. After reading this review, I'm sold.
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Doug Adams
Australia
Oakleigh
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Great review. I've played this a couple of times with my 3 year old and he's entranced by it.
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