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Subject: Training My Opponents -- Review of Three Little Pigs rss

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James Barton
Australia
Melbourne
Victoria
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See my blog for an introduction into this series of reviews.

Players: 2-4 players with at least one mature player to run the game. Potentially the mature player could be an older (8-10 years) child. However there is a little to the rules and there's a few possible fights.

Components: Very good. The board is a puzzle-style that fits easily together. You also get 12 houses each made of two good and thick pieces of cardboard. Other components are a nice large d6, 4 player pieces (thin card with a plastic stand) and a spinner.

Rules: The aim of the game is to collect each of the 3 (straw, wood and brick) houses and then land your piece on the centre of the board. Players take turns to roll the die and move that many spaces around the board. There are 4 different types of spaces you can land on: straw/wood/brick lets you pick up one of the relevant house pieces. The wolf lets you take a turn on the spinner which has 3 options: straw/wood/brick. If you spin straw or wood you may take that type of tile from one of your opponents, and if you spin brick you can't take anything (the wolf could never blow down that type of house).

Duration: The game takes about 20-30 minutes. The end game can take a little while as it can be tough to get the precise number to land on the central space and meanwhile you could end up losing pieces of your house to the wolf.

Education Outcomes:
Structured Play: Players take it in turns and there is a decent amount of structure with the spinner mechanic requiring a certain trigger.
Counting: As a roll and move game you'll find yourself counting to 6 as you move around the board.
Win/Loss: There's a winner and loser.
Social Interaction: When the wolf is spun the active player chooses who to take the house piece from. This can be a decision fraught with consequences as players enact revenge on each other and potential upset each other.
Adversity: Due to the wolf mechanic, players will find themselves going backwards unexpectedly. While not an altogether pleasant experience, there is a life lesson here that we all learn eventually.

Notable Absentees:
Strategy: There's no real strategic thinking going on. There's only one decision you make and that's who to steal from. The only opportunity for any strategy would be to slow the leader, but that's very situational

Enjoyment:
Another one our two girls (3 and 5) love. However, there will almost always be a point in the game where our youngest will cry as someone takes a house tile off her. She's learning to roll with the punches a little better, but it's not unusual for the loss of a particularly precious house to set her off.

Summary:
You don't get many children's games with a Howzat element. As I threw up earlier you do get a number of disputes and hurt feelings. However, this is a part of gaming (and life in general) so while it's not always a pleasant lesson it is an important one. As such I think there's some good to this game: many children will enjoy the Howzat and getting revenge on each other, while children that get upset could probably do with learning how to deal with the disappointment. After all - it's just a game and that's a lesson all of us need to learn (even some adult gamers could with a refresher in that).

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