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Subject: Viva Topo! - A Light Review (Children's Game) rss

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All of my 'Light Reviews' aim to offer a brief overview that allows people to get a good feel for what the game may offer them, the options involved and general flow of play.

My reviews on children’s games aim to outline any educational merits to the game as well as the appeal they will have for the audience they were intended for…kids.

Summary

Game Type - Children's Board Game
Play Time: 10-30 minutes
Number of Players: 1-4
Mechanics - Roll and Move, Push Your Luck
Difficulty - Pick-up & Play (Can be learned in under 10 minutes)
Components - Excellent ++


Image Courtesy of sbilbey

Overview

Viva Topo! appears to be one in a new line of Children's Games from Rio Grande Games. This new range appears to target a variety of age groups but the one common trait between them all is the superb production values.

In Viva Topo! the players are transported into the realm of mice. There aim is to plunder this Cheese Paradise for as much of the good golden stuff as they can get their little mousey paws on. But of course there is a catch in the form of the CAT, who wants to turn this world into a delicious mousey paradise. The player that manages to amass the greatest cheese haul by the end of the game is the winner.

The Components

I swear this game is trying to become the Spinal Tap of kid's games as it strives to achieve a component score of 11! It really does look that good.

d10-1 The Board - The board depicts the world of our ambitious mice. The center contains two key spaces, the starting place for all the player's mice and Cheese Nirvana - the ultimate goal that contains the 6 piece 'whole cheeses'.

Around the center lies the track that the mice and the cat must traverse. various icons are printed on these spaces which I will get to later.

The corners of the board then feature 4 Mouse Houses and it is in here that the other cheese pieces are placed at the beginning of the game.


Image Courtesy of Werbaer

d10-2 Mice - Next come the adorable mice. Made from wood they have a beveled edge under the head, which allows them to sit flat but at an angle so their cute buts stick up in the air. Protruding from those buts are tails made from nylon and these are threaded through the body of the mouse to also poke out the front to create a nose.

The rears are painted in vivid primary colours (perfect for the age bracket targeted) of blue, green, red and yellow to denote which player they belong to. The cute factor is then sent off the charts with the addition of felt ears and simple markings on the face to add character.

The mice really do appear to be hand crafted but I can't believe that would be possible in this modern age of mass production and profit margins.

These mice really remind me of games my German grandparents brought back from Germany. The quality is really something else compared to the traditional cheap components of modern family games. I think a company called Selectica are the component makers.


Image Courtesy of cubsfan31

d10-3 The Cat - The cat is a good deal larger than the mice (2.5 times taller) and is coloured red. This is good for reflecting the danger that he poses to those little mice. He enjoys a material tail but still gets the felt ear treatment. Simple markings flesh out his face and two hands on his tummy reveal that he is hungry.

I'm sure it wasn't the intention, but he kind of looks Mexican to me (the yellow ears reminding me of a Sombrero), and that reminds me of the wicked cats from the Speedy Gonzalez cartoons of yesteryear. Ok I may have some issues... shake


Image Courtesy of Jonesey

d10-4 Cheese - That leaves the cheese. Cheese comes in 5 sizes - 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 slices (while cheese). These are also made from wood, coloured yellow and red lines delineate the number of cheese pieces.


Image Courtesy of patchwerq

d10-5 Dice - The game uses a D6 for movement. Four of the faces are standard values featuring the numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5. Two of the faces are special as they feature a 1 and a Cat symbol. These allow a player to move 1 space in addition to the cat also moving.

The dice is made of wood and is quite large. The size is good to help avoid swallowing for little ones, but they are likely to need to hands to hold and roll it.


Image Courtesy of changeling

I can't say enough about the components, they are fantastic. there can be no complaints about value for money in this area and they make the game highly engaging for its target audience.

The Game Play

The aim of the game is to acquire the most pieces of cheese.

d10-1 Set-up - Each player receives their team of mice. In a 2 player game each player will receive 5 mice. In a 3-4 player game the number of mice is reduced to only 4. All mice are placed in the central Mouse House ready to begin their adventure.

The Cat is then placed in his starting position and this again will vary based on the number of people playing.

Finally the Cheese pieces are placed in their starting positions. The 6 piece 'Whole Cheeses' are placed in Cheese Nirvana in the center of the board and represent the longest journey any mouse will have to make. The other cheese pieces are placed in the other 4 Mouse Houses in the corners of the board. The larger the piece of cheese, the further the mice will have to travel to get it.

The game is ready to begin with the player who loves cheese the most (don't you just love those little inclusions... wow ).

d10-2 A Turn - A turn is a very simple affair of rolling the dice and moving as required. A regular dice result simply allows a player to move any 1 of their mice that many spaces. No movement (dice) splitting between mice is allowed.

Mice must be moved in clockwise fashion around the board and an arrow denotes the exit point from the starting Mouse House. Any mouse in your team can be moved on any turn, regardless of their location on the board. In this way a player could focus on only 1 Mouse if they wished, leaving the others back home.

The only restriction on mouse movement is that there is a maximum of 4 mice per space. If a mouse has no other option than to move to a space with 4 mice, it must forfeit its move.

d10-3 The Cat - The Cat will catch any mouse that it lands on or passes in the course of a turn. In the first lap the cat will only move 1 space for each cat result rolled. However, once it passes the starting arrow space (not quite a full lap), a cat result will see the cat move 2 spaces per turn (denoted by spaces with 2 cat symbols). This not only increases the danger for the mice, but it also ensures that the length of the game is kept within a given timeframe, allowing the game to not outstay its welcome.

d10-4 Decision Time - What makes Viva Topo! tick is the central decision of when to bail out. The cat starts ahead of the mice, therefore it is desirable to move your mice just behind the cat if possible. This keeps them safe from capture and allows them to make ground as they head towards the large cheese pieces that will help to post a high score.

But the best laid plans of Mice and Men (sorry - I'm sure I wasn't the first reviewer to try that on ), seldom come to fruition. The challenge with Viva Topo! is that a roll of 1 will see the cat move the same distance around the track (effectively for a zero gain). This becomes a real problem when each player has to manage 4 or 5 mice as the other mice in the team will actually have lost ground to the cat.

Keeping them all safe is not easy.

Thankfully the players can have their mice move into one of the corner Cheese Houses for safety. Doing so allows the mice just moved to collect 1 of the pieces of cheese from that location at the expense of being removed from play.

In this way Viva Topo! uses a 'Push Your Luck!' mechanism to drive its play. How far will you be prepared to move around the board in search of big rewards? The longer you stay the more danger you will be in.

Each Cheese House has 2 entry points so it is also possible to take a chance by passing the first entry point and if the cat is in hot pursuit, you may still have time to bail out and enter via the 2nd entry point.


Image Courtesy of Jonesey

It is also very important to note that a cat dice result does require that a player moves one of their mice before moving the cat. Thus if you are 1 space ahead of the cat, a cat dice result will not end in capture...for this turn at least.

d10-5 Ticking Time Bomb - One final mechanic is added to ensure that the play gets moving and a sense of danger is eminent. If the cat should reach the point where it can move 2 spaces per move (arrow space), all mice yet to leave the starting location are removed from the game. This is critical as it forces the players to spread their moves across their mouse team and this in turn ensures that the cat will be able to get into a position that will threatened the mice and therefore force the players to either head for the safety of a cheese house or take a calculated risk and remain on the board.

Without this consideration the game would feel like a movie without complication, it would have no tension.

d10-6 Game End - The game ends when all mice are removed from the board, either through capture or having taken a piece of cheese from a safe Cheese House. The player who collected the most cheese is then declared the winner.

So Where's the Game Appeal?

d10-1 Simplicity - The game is very simple but then again it really needs to be with a targeted audience of 4+. Roll, move and make one of perhaps 3 decisions. That's just about right for the intended audience and games like Viva Topo! should be seen as good game training (and fun of course) for little minds.

d10-2 Risk Taking - Games that encourage risk taking whilst still allowing for an element of safety are great for young kids to explore. All children are different but for those that have trouble taking risks, games like Viva Topo! can teach them that sometimes risk is a good thing.

On the fun front, the nature of being chased is always fun. Having the threat of the cat in hot pursuit will always be appealing to children and my 6 year old gets a real head shake going as the cat gets dangerously close to his mice. Games that create those moments are great fun, for the kids and the parents as they watch on.

d10-3 Decision Making -Whilst the game is really quite simple, it can still be a challenge to gauge just how much cheese will be enough to win. If a person plays it too safe by taking mid sized cheese pieces, they may just find that they get beaten by a player who manages to get their last mouse to Cheese Nirvana. In doing so the game keeps the players guessing.

d10-4 Time Factor -Something that Viva Topo! and Giro Galoppo have in common is that Rio appear to be paying particular attention to the time required to play. Both games can be played in as little as 10-15 minutes once everyone knows the game and this is really important for the modern family that has substantial time pressures to deal with. It is also important in ensuring that the game does not extend beyond the attention span of younger gamers.

Games of this pacing and time frame can easily be played once or twice in between dinner and bedtime and that means the games are more likely to get played. That also means greater value for money.

Any Concerns?

There are probably three that spring to mind -

d10-1 Pacing - The early game can be quite slow going and this can be an issue for younger players as they won't see any major change in the board and the cat won't be in a position to threaten for some time. The movement of the cat can also affect the pacing of the game and if the cat dice result is not rolled often enough it can seriously reduce the tension at times.

I guess a house rule could be invoked that sees that cat move automatically if it hasn't been rolled in 3 or 4 turns but I haven't tried it out. Likewise, the cat could also start on a more advanced position to ensure that it becomes a danger more quickly.

d10-2 Age Limitations - Having played this with my 6, 8 and 10 year old boys, I can safely say that the longevity of the game is probably limited to the 8 to 9 year old child. Isaac (10) was fairly bored with the experience, whilst the 6 and 8 year old enjoyed it. I think after 20+ plays the 8 year old may start to tire of it too. This is definitely one for the younger set.

d10-3 Cost - Whilst I am unsure of the cost overseas, Viva Topo! is priced at $59 in Australia. That is quite an investment for a game of this weight and despite it looking amazing, I could happily do without a few embellishments and have the game priced at just under $50. I only raise this point as I think it is likely to be a barrier to some families buying it.

The Final Word

There really isn't much to dislike in Viva Topo! if you have children of the right age. It looks great, has some interesting decisions to make for the target audience (4-8 year olds) and it plays quickly enough to ensure that boredom doesn't set in. There can be real moments of anxiety as the cat comes up behind the mice pack and all these elements add up to some very excited children's faces, which is what it is all about for families.

Links

For a full list of my 300+ reviews in a search-able Geeklist -

My Review Geeklist for Easy Reference

Links to other Reviews on Children's Games

d10-1 Hula Hippos

d10-2 Knuckling Knights

d10-3 Monza

d10-4 Double Shutter Junior

d10-5 Whirlpool

d10-6 Giro Galoppo
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Bob
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Re: Viva Topo - A Light Review (Children's Game)
Nice review! thumbsup

What are your thoughts about player's age? Would an average 4 year old enjoy the game?

We have a Grand kid we're hoping to convert (err recruit) into gaming at an early age. cool
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John Farrell
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Re: Viva Topo - A Light Review (Children's Game)
Ashitaka wrote:
Would an average 4 year old enjoy the game?


I've played this with a 4 year old and his mum wanted to buy a copy. Yes, it's great for 4yos.
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Re: Viva Topo - A Light Review (Children's Game)
Friendless wrote:
I've played this with a 4 year old and his mum wanted to buy a copy. Yes, it's great for 4yos.


Thanks John! thumbsup
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Re: Viva Topo - A Light Review (Children's Game)
Yeah definitely playable by 3-4 year olds, they just may need help with counting.

Great theme and the chase aspect gets them excited. I played 2 more games last night and we had the cat flying so it was quite tense. Alex was taking risks and lost all 4 mice. By game 2 he recognised why it may be a good idea to duck into an early house that only gives a small amount of cheese!
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Iain K
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Re: Viva Topo - A Light Review (Children's Game)
Great review Neil, FYI the game is made by Selecta Spielzeug and recently began being marketed more widely by Rio Grande.
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Re: Viva Topo - A Light Review (Children's Game)
citizen k wrote:
Great review Neil, FYI the game is made by Selecta Spielzeug and recently began being marketed more widely by Rio Grande.


Thankd Iain - it's nice to know these little points.

For the record Viva Topo! was just named Best Children's Game by BoardgamesAustralia.

Giro Galoppo came 2nd (so a coup for Selecta and Rio), with Whirlpool coming 3rd.
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Craig Blumer
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Re: Viva Topo - A Light Review (Children's Game)
Great review, really helped me about deciding if this is going to work for my family and for a kid group I lead.

Thanks again.
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gong gongongo
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Re: Viva Topo - A Light Review (Children's Game)
Mmm, a delicious review! meeple

Going to order it now. Can't wait to play it together with my 5 year old.
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Re: Viva Topo - A Light Review (Children's Game)
aricz wrote:
Mmm, a delicious review! meeple

Going to order it now. Can't wait to play it together with my 5 year old.


Glad you enjoyed it - enjoy those fits of laughter from your little one when the cat gets you.
 
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