Game Review: Hi-Ho! Cherry Oh
The Quick and Dirty:
Of strictly educational value.
Up to 4 players are each assigned a spot at the board consisting of a “tree” covered with small indentations, each of which holds a plastic cherry, and an inset bucket to collect their cherries. Players take turns at a central spinner and either gather the indicated number of cherries from their tree to their bucket, or are assessed penalties which remove cherries from their buckets. The first player to fill their bucket (defined as gathering 10 cherries from their tree) wins.
Almost completely dominated by luck, Hi-Ho! Cherry Oh has no strategy, per se. There is a slight advantage to spinning first. Arguably, a dexterous player might be able to influence the spinner in such a way as to maximize the number of cherries gathered per turn, and reduce the risk of a penalty.
The three-dimensional cherries are fairly accurate little models, and dropping them into the buckets affords a certain visceral pleasure. The artwork on the board is child-friendly, if uninspired, in the 1930’s-50’s mode of the Campbell’s Soup kids, and lacking the brighter colors of Cariboo and similar recent children’s fare. The (slightly bulky) spinner is mounted directly on the board, which is only thin cardboard, and this may lead to early wear if enthusiastic players push too hard on the mechanism. There may be a slight choking hazard, since the cherries *are* so very realistic.
This game is useful only inasmuch as it teaches basic gaming concepts, such as taking turns, and provides some practice counting numbers up to 10. These modest educational benefits are, to my mind, outweighed by the frustration of penalties, which are quite frequent and can lead to ridiculously long playtimes...much longer, frankly, than my four-year-old can maintain interest in this game.
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I've found that the little spinner is difficult for little hands to spin effectively. It's also easy to have discussions of what constitutes a "good spin" or a "line". (I usually lean in favor of the kid in these cases.)