I've been thinking about Pooh all day long, and I hope the force is with him. By that, I mean I hope he and his sisters are having fun playing the new game Pa-pa and I delivered to him over the weekend as we observed his seventh birthday just a few days early.
All in all, I was pretty pleased with our launch of Star Wars Yahtzee Jr. I have always enjoyed the dice-rolling excitement of a good Yahtzee match, and I have to say this particular version adapts quite well to the needs of kids age four and older.
Instead of the usual numbered dots, the six sides of most dice feature pictures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, R2D2, Chewbacca, and Yoda, who acts as a wild card as players try to collect as many pictures as possible of a single character in a three-roll turn.
Since there is evil in every universe, one side of one sinister die is reserved for the picture of Darth Vader. If Darth turns up on a player's roll, that player loses the advantage of that fifth die for the remainder of that particular turn.
Further, the game is designed so that kids don't have to keep individual scores on note pads as they make decisions about how to count the dice rolls. Instead, they use color-coded game markers to mark their choices on a game board visible to all players at all times. This enables discussions of options with kids who may need help figuring out rolling and scoring choices. The board, game pieces, and dice (and a set of four happy players) look like this:
The game can be easily adapted for two, three, or four players, with the difference being the number of turns all players get. Once begun, things move quickly, and the kids seem excited both to take their own turns and to watch what happens as their opponents roll the dice, consider options, and strategize.
In our experience, the downsides of the game are few. You have to caution the kids not to bump the scoreboard and displace markers that have already been played, because then the cumulative scores are lost for that game. Another issue is the number of relatively small pieces (twenty score markers, five dice) to keep track of when a number of boisterous kids are involved.
But I have to say the five of us (Zoomie and I were partners) had a great time with Star Wars Yahtzee Jr. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. In the event of a number of kids who are fairly young, though, I would recommend flying a reconnaissance mission into the box ahead of time to punch out score markers and place the stickers on the dice. I did this, and am pretty sure I saved us some time, potential chaos, and possible damage to the game components.
Happy Birthday to you, Pooh. You are the most special first-grader in my universe. May the candles on your cake tonight glow like light sabers, and may your life be filled with a lot of Yodas and very few Darths.