Problem Picnic: Attack of the Ants is the latest from Kids Table Games – who last year brought out the family game Foodfighters (see our preview for it here). This time around, the design is by Scott Almes of the Tiny Epic Games and Best Treehouse Ever fame. That right there may have been all the info you need to know, but if you need more – let’s take a look at this family game…
In Problem Picnic (which is for 2-4 players and played over 6 rounds), players are trying to roll their dice (that have different numbers of ants on them) on to picnic blanket food cards that are in the middle of the play area. After everyone has rolled all their dice, whoever has the most ants on the individual card (number wise, not dice wise) wins it. They place the winning card into their personal anthill play area.
Now, of course there are a few twists to this. First, each player has three different kind of ant dice with its own distribution of ants (and some have a special ability) – also with the exception of one type of ant die, any dice used to captured a card, cannot be used on your next turn. Second, point scoring and food item scoring changes each game (for example this game you may have to have as many cookies touch as you can in your personal anthill). This scoring variety is done by score cards that are mixed up and then a certain number dealt out at the start of the game.
Game in-action. Look at the blue die go!
The third twist is the use of Round Cards, but before I can explain them, let me share with you how rounds work. After all dice have been rolled and cards claimed a new round is set up. However, turn order is not decided via clockwise order, but who has the least amount of food cards in their ant mounds. They will now get a Round Card (it is public knowledge what you get), which works which act as a catch up mechanic – they give the last place player a special power card to use when they want to cash it in to help win some more points (or prevent others from winning points). I will note with the Round Cards there is a bit of “take that” to them, not too bad – but something to take note of, for those that cannot stand any “take that” whatsoever.
There is quite a bit to love here. Few things that instantly come to mind are: First, the theme (along with the art) is really charming. Second, I like that the scoring isn’t static each game, but changes game to game and even many of the end game goals change (with the exception of one card, but even that the scoring points changes each game). Third, the round cards spice things up – as well as the idea of losing your dice next round if they helped you win a card. It is a fun family game.
Some sample of possible Scoring Goals at the end of the game. The Blue Card is always in every game, but notice that the scoring isn’t static – there a chips that are placed on the card to change the end game VP of each.
The gameplay is easy enough for kids 7 and up to understand. Though younger kids may need a little help understanding what each Round Card does – but since they are public knowledge that isn’t an issue at all. The gameplay is smooth. Those that like games where you can build up your own personal space should enjoy placing the won picnic cards. Also, while not being too complicated, where you place those cards in your ant mounds actual matters some, due again to the those scoring cards. I think kids (and also I) will enjoy the different types of ant dices. There are the 12-sided solider die that you don’t lose next round if it is used to claim a card. There is also the super small workers (tiny 6-sided) that you can roll again if the first time it didn’t touch another die and didn’t land on a card (however, only once). That do-over ant children enjoy. I also like that the dice used to capture a card are out of the next round (with again exception of the 1 solider ant). The game also doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, which is important I think not only in games, but especially ones where you may be playing with a mix company of both children and adults.
The art on the preview copy is what you would expect from Josh Cappel, and feels like it is already complete (I do not know if it is or not) and really makes the game come together. So overall you have a fun solid game, even in it’s preview stages and that is even before whatever final tweaks or Kickstarter goals are reached to further enhance the game.
There isn’t much more I feel like I can say – it is a pretty streamlined, well-working, well-rounded family game, that parents won’t groan about if a child picks it off the shelf to play with you. Is the game perfect? Are there any negatives? Well, let’s talk that next…
Originally here I had a few negatives about the game. They weren’t “break the game” bad, but things that were a little annoying. They were how the game was table hog – we were playing on a 4 foot by 3 foot table – and still it was a tight fit. After you laid out the food cards and place your ant hill in front of you (and don’t forget it going grow, so you need to leave space for that) – there was very little rolling space left. Something that exacerbated this problem was certain scoring goal cards require you to have certain foods or plate colors in columns or diagonals, so players want to have as much space as they can to build their personal anthills.
We also noted that, some family members could have found frustrating, that was only a little room to roll the die on the table in a legal manner (there are rules to dice rolling). While, I personally didn’t have issues with it – I have seen both kid and adult alike having an issue with it. Another issue was that was the player’s anthill grew, it can get in the way of your rolling, where you are knocking the cards, etc. It may also be harder to roll on dice to certain cards (like the ones in the middle right in front of you) due to anthill cards in your way. Like I said these weren’t game breaking, but could have been annoying.
Sample of what a 4-player game could look like on a 4ft x 3ft table.
BUT, as I said this was what was originally discussed. Since the writing of this preview (but before publishing) – Kids Table has changed up some of the game after hearing the concerns of previewers about space. Now the plate side that you place in your anthill have been shrunk so that you can layer cards to take up less space. 5 cards now take only up a little of 2 cards space worth of space. So, it seems these concerns could be a thing of the past. Will there be issues with this new layout, I am not sure as that isn’t the preview copy of the game I was able to test out.
A sample picture that was sent out to reviewers to show how the new anthill system will work – saving space.
I have played Problem Picnic with all player counts (which is 2-4 players) – and with each player count a different number of scoring cards as well as food cards are laid out. However, let me note that no matter how many players – the game is always played over 6 rounds. Just as you would imagine with more players, the game is longer, but there are more cards to try to capture. However, each player count has its own benefits – I like that 9 card layout of 4-player game, the quickness of the 2-player game, the 3-player game may be the sweet spot however. I am not sure how to support that idea outside of saying it has the Goldilocks “just right” feel to it. You are still getting interaction with 2 other players, it doesn’t drag length wise and there is a little bit more table space to place out the round and goals/scoring cards. A bonus for 2-player, however, is that it takes up less space (due to the scaling it us only 5 picnic cards out at a time instead of 9 in 4-player, and 4 scoring cards total instead of 6 found in the 4-player game) and if you are playing on say a smaller rectangle table (or floor) you could both should be able to find a way to make the dice rolling space a little less tight.
How does Problem Picnic compare to other Kid’s Table Games? Well – that is kind of a hard question to answer, as their catalog thus far only has one other game to compare to – Foodfighters. Problem Picnic, certainly feels like a Kid’s Table game, but that could also be due to the fact it is using the same illustrator as Foodfighters, Joshua Cappel. Then there is the idea of course in one game you are food that is fighting and in the other you are ants fighting over food.
Kid’s Table makes kids games that they hope adults will want to play with their kids and are more like publishers Blue Orange and Gamewright. Where I could see Kid’s Table previous title Foodfighters being something that Blue Orange or Gamewright may have put out, that isn’t the case with the game we are reviewing today. The closest publisher I could see publishing Problem Picnic is Green Couch Games – if Green Couch Games published a game with dice in it (which currently they do not). I think if readers tend to like something Green Couch would put out – then this game is right down your alley.
Foodfighters is a game that I think is best to be played with a child involved – it isn’t a game that I personally would want to play adult vs. adult. Problem Picnic though is not only a solid family game, but one I can see some adults finding fun as a filler during game night. All that said we are split as a family as to which is better. Half of us that have played so far like Problem Picnic better, the other half Foodfighters. This split also includes the adults in the house being split over which one they like more. My wife thinks that Problem Picnic is a good game, just wasn’t as fun as Foodfighters. While I find Problem Picnic to be the more fun of the two games, and one I wouldn’t be oppose to playing with other adults just as a filler.
As a side-note, Foodfighters is strictly a 2-player game, with Problem Picnic being 2-4 players.
Regular readers of The Inquisitive Meeple may recall that I have reviewed to other Dice Dexterity games in 2016 – Kung Fu Zoo (click here for review) and Space Planets (click here for review). How does Problem Picnic compare?
Well, I am not sure it is fair to compare Problem Picnic to something like Kung Fu Zoo or Tumblin’ Dice – as in those games you flick dice and are not trying to roll them on to target cards. That said, I would place it in-between the aforementioned games – I would choose Kung Fu Zoo over it, but Problem Picnic over Tumblin’ Dice. Why would I pick Kung Fu Zoo? Because I find Kung Fu Zoo while offering less in game play to be a bit more elegant in you got a skill based flicking going on, you have the nice wooden heirloom quality of the board, plus it takes less playing space. Also with Kung Fu Zoo you can have tournaments with be it with family or ones at game cons (though I suppose you could do a tournament with Problem Picnic – it just feels less like game you play in tournament style setting). All that being said, both are fun family games that use dice in a different way then normal and there room for both in a collection as they feel like very different games.
As far as HABA’s Space Planet – there are some things similar, but they are different games once you see the rules. What is similar is you are taking a die and trying to roll it on to target cards in the middle of the table, in hopes of capturing them. However, that is where the similarities end. In Space Planets, unlike Problem Picnic, it is a single die and is shared between all players. I think that if you want to play with kids 4-6 your better bet is Space Planet. However, once your kids hit the 7 or 7 ½ mark Problem Picnic would be in my opinion the better game as there is more choices and things going on that will engage them (and the adult) more. I did ask my just turned 8-year-old which one he liked better and his reply was Problem Picnic and for many reasons listed you have options as to what dice to roll (and some of them have special abilities) and you get to build your own ant mound, etc.
I would also like to note that the game reminds me of another game a tiny bit. Joshua Cappel’s (who does the art for Problem Picnic) game Wasabi (published by Z-Man Games). Not only are they food based games that Josh illustrated, but you are trying to put food (in Problem Picnic it is in your own personal space) in a grid in a way to satisfy goals (again with Problem Picnic though scoring isn’t until end of game and unlike Wasabi it isn’t personal goals). Also the Round Cards in Problem Picnic slightly remind me of Wasabi’s special ability cards in how they interact with the center board.
Kid’s Table has once again succeeded in offering another solid game to bring families together around the game table. Problem Picnic is a game that I think many adults would have no problem playing if their child asked them to play it with them on a rainy day or lazy Sunday afternoon (or anytime really). I could also see this possibly becoming a hit with some adult play groups as a nice filler. With my original caution concerns now addressed – I really have to recommend that everyone reading this looking for a quirky family game or filler to at the very least check out the Kickstarter.
The Inquisitive Meeple Note: A review copy of the game was given to The Inquisitive Meeple. Any positive opinions/feedback on the game are our own. They were not solicited by publisher or by the designers.