Echidna Shuffle: Preview

Today, Fairway takes a look at the currently-on Kickstarter game from Wattsalpoag Games: Echidna Shuffle. See if this adorably cute game dances into Fairway’s heart.

Echidna Shuffle is a two- to six-player pick up and deliver game featuring twelve echidnas: the quirky, not-so-cuddly, egg-laying mammals from down under. Players use the echidnas to deliver their three insects to their destinations.  Preview note: I was provided a pre-production, prototype of the game and so some elements of the art and components may changeThis Kickstarter is live right now.

Initial Impressions

  1. The whole game is adorable. The echidnas are absolutely adorable and gigantic. It’s hard to overstate the toy-value of these things, especially if you have kids.
  2. The rules are an interesting mix of complexity for a family game. The gist isn’t that hard: roll a die which permits a certain number of “moves” of the echidnas along the winding paths of the board.  As you pass by one of your insects, you can to attach it to the top of the echnida. You’re now in a race to get that insect to the destination.  It’s not “hard” but the logic and path following might put this out of reach of some younger players — unless you’re willing to do a lot of hand-holding.
  3. Any pictures of the echidna pieces will not do it justice. They’re amazing.

Game play

In Echidna Shuffle, players have one objective: get their a colored insects to each of the three destinations. The first one to do that, wins.

To get setup, the over-sized board is setup in the middle of the table.  The board consists of a series of spaces (indicated by leaves) connected by directional paths.  Players then place the twelve echidna pieces randomly on different leaves on the board, faced in the direction of the paths.

Then, each player is given a set of matching colored insects (one of the six different kinds), a pick up token, a player token matching their insects, and a set of three tree stumps that match their color. Players will then take turns placing their “pickup” tokens on empty leaf spaces.  These pick up spaces is where an echidna can pick up one of the player’s colored insects.

The players then pass their tree stumps to the player to their left.  These tree stumps represent the destination for the insects. So, the player who gets them will try to pick three different spots around the board that are difficult to get to from the pick up spot.  The selected spots can have an echidna or other stumps on it (just not a stump of the same color).

A game of Echidna Shuffle is then played over a series of rounds.  At the start of each round, players roll a die and place their player marker on that spot on the movement tracker. The movement tracker works such that if you roll high, you get a big movement in the first half of the round and a small movement in the second half.  No matter what you roll, you’ll end up moving nine spaces.  Once everyone rolls, players will make their first move, starting with the first player.

The player moves one or more echidnas up to the number of spaces permitted by their roll.  If a player passes through their “pick up” spot, they place one of their insects on top of the echidna in that space.  If the player passes through their own drop off spot, and they haven’t already placed an insect on the stump, they can take the insect off the back of the echidna and place it on the stump.

Once everyone has taken their turn, the movement marker shifts down and players take their second movement action.

The game essentially repeats until someone manages to get their insects to all their drop off points.

On the Green

The Echidnas.  So, back in April of this year, I had the pleasure and opportunity to make the long haul to Australia with my family. We did a good number of trips to Australian zoos (and petting zoos) and echidnas were always a neat exhibit. So, I was stoked to have the opportunity to play this game.  And while these echidnas aren’t supposed to be replicas of the real thing, they are wonderfully adorable.  These things are also huge for a game component and are roughly the size of my daughters palm. It’s amazing.  These are terrific and unexpected components.

The other components.  The game also has really nice other plastic components: the insects and tree stumps. The insects have pegs so that they can rest comfortably on top of the echidnas as they’re moved around the board.  The stumps are also unexpectedly large.

The board is also quite large–it has to be in order to fit all these pieces on it.

The art and theme.  This whole game is bright and happy.  From cover art to board, it’s an immediate draw for my family.  The theme is similarly endearing. Who wouldn’t want to move insects on the backs of echidnas?

Game play.  Echidna Shuffle’s target audience is clearly families. The game is mostly one of strategically and opportunistically moving the echidnas around the board. It’s light and doesn’t factor much luck into the outcome — die rolls are all evened out. This makes the game a solid entry into it’s target market.  In addition, while regular gamers aren’t that audience, it’s got solid enough game play choices to merit more than a few plays by adults too.

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layer count. The fact that this game can play up to six (and it comes with components for six) is amazing. This feature alone makes it an excellent choice of a family of gamers — it’s playable by even very large families.

Where it comes up short

This game is adorable and fun, but there are a few things to know about how it plays.

Breadth of the target audience.  I think the one unfortunate consequence of the some times difficult to follow patterns and large numbers of moves is that it likely takes the game out of the range of the youngest of players, unless you’re willing to do a lot of handholding.  There’s a lot of movement, a lot of paths, and sometimes a good number of options.

Higher player counts.  While being able to play with as many as six players is definitely a perk, as those numbers go up, so does both the game length and randomization. Echidnas will rarely be in the same spot when your turn to move comes back around. Relatedly, the higher player counts means that those who take their turns later (especially early on) might find themselves without a nearby echidna to ride.

In the hole

Echidna Shuffle is a great little pick-up and deliver game for a family of gamers. The adorable pieces, easy-to-teach rules, and high player counts should make this an absolute must for anyone with gamer kids. You also shouldn’t discount the toy-value of the gigantic echidna pieces.

Echidna Shuffle is in the hole for a birdie.

The Echidna Shuffle campaign is currently live on Kickstarter. You should check it out.

 

Fairway was provided a pre-production copy of the game to write this preview. He was not otherwise compensated for this review.

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