New South Wales
Buster Keaton from 'Go West'
Many kids' games are sweet. Candy Land is sickeningly sweet by definition. Dawn Under has vampires, but they're friendly-looking vampires and the gameplay is not confrontational. Gulo Gulo is very cute, with pink wolverines and the cute Baby Gulo; but we choose to ignore the fact that the creatures are eating the poor old swamp vultures' unborn children; nevertheless the play is not nasty. In contrast, Giro Galoppo is a cute game with a non-confrontational theme which hides a game of vicious backstabbing and brutal screwage. I reckon the kids will love it.
The first downside - it has a hard name. The game is aimed at kids learning to read, and they'll look at the name and not know what it means. I remember being intimidated by that sort of thing when I was small. We call it The Horse Racing Game.
The game board is a steeplechase track. There are 3 water spaces and five jumps to be placed at various locations. The first time I played the 4 year old and the 5 year old took the jumps and placed them following the rules, and seemed very pleased with themselves for having started the game so well. Each player chooses a horse (in horse colours) and a rider (in player colours) so you get to make two choices there - this is very important when you're 6. By the way, the bits are gorgeous. There is a designated starting spot for each colour, and I've seen littlies figure that out without being told as well. Kids seem to look at the game and know what to do.
There is no die. Each player has 6 cards with numbers from 1 to 6. On each turn, each player secretly chooses a card, then all are simultaneously revealed. The lowest card moves first - the horse goes forward that many spaces. If there's a tie in the numbers, the horse that's behind moves first. Horses must count every space as they travel forward, but they may not stop on a water space or on a jump. If they do, they have to go back to where they started. If a horse ends up on another horse the horse that got landed on has to go back to the previous unoccupied space.
That's the nasty bit. Here's a typical scenario. You're on the space before the jump. You need to play a 2 or more to get over the jump. I'm on the space before you, so I need to play a 3 or more. We reveal cards - you played a 2, and I played a 1. I move forward 1 space, and push you back to where I was. Now your 2 would put you on the jump, so you can't move at all. It's totally hilarious when a 5 year old does it to you, and extraordinarily mean when you do it to them. There's a lot of passion in this game!
What do the kids learn from this? Counting, planning ahead, etc. Also, that sometimes daddies cry and mummies flip the board. It's all part of growing up :-). This game is kinda random and kids have as much chance as anyone. In one game we played one player had to leave, so we kept flipping cards randomly, and she won the game. This doesn't improve *my* opinion of the game, but if you don't mind player chaos this game might suit your family.
In fact, it might even suit your drinking buddies. Many casual gamers enjoy a bit of light-hearted brutality, and for the mean-spirited there are plenty of opportunities to mess with people. One on turn I found I only have my 1 and my 4 card left, and there was a water space 1 ahead and a jump 4 ahead... so I couldn't make any progress for two turns. That's terribly funny for everyone else.
The game supports 2 to 5 players, so it's suitable for dad and daughter, or two little boys and mum and aunt and uncle. The price in Australia is expensive for a kids' game, but it's good value compared to adult games, so it fits the "high quality children's game" niches. There are many kids around the world who'd love to play this game and see Daddy cry!
"It may be doubted whether so small a number of men ever employed so short a space of time with greater or more lasting effects upon the history of the world.” — Sir George Otto Trevelyan on the Battles of Trenton and Princeton
My comment on the game: "Rated for ages 6+, but don't let the little ones play with pre-teens or adults -- the strategy is deep enough and mean enough to leave them in tears!". You nailed this one.