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[Review] Gulo Gulo

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tomvasel
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Joined: 03/23/2011

I just recently reviewed the game Kids of Catan, and recommended it because it was an excellent gateway game for very young children. The problem with the game is that while it might be fascinating for the extreme young, it was fairly boring for adults - whose only enjoyment would really be the fact that their children were having fun with the game. But how many games are fun for both young children and adults? From what I heard on the internet, Gulo Gulo (Zoch and Rio Grande Games, 2003 - Wolfgang Kramer & Hans Raggan Jurgen P. Grunau) was one of those unique games. This intrigued me, so I was happy to procure a copy.

And the voices on the internet, crying in chorus, were not incorrect! Gulo Gulo is a game that my four-year-old daughter loves, can play, and can even beat me at - and that’s with me trying (fairly) hard! At the same time, the game isn’t boring, and I even can occasionally bring it out when no kids are in sight! The components are top notch, and this is very useful - because the game’s central mechanic is that of dexterity. Therefore, those who are not big fans of dexterity games may not enjoy Gulo Gulo, but those who don’t mind dexterity games (and a fairly easy one at that) will find an excellent opportunity. There are better dexterity games - but I have seen none (except Looping Louie) that have scaled as well for adults and children.

A small wooden bowl is placed in the middle of the table, and is filled with a pile of small wooden eggs. There are twenty eggs: five blue, five red, five yellow, two purple, and five green (colors listed in size order, from largest to smallest). An alarm pole, a six-inch long thin stick with a small wooden weight at the top, is placed standing up, held up by the eggs in the bowl. One special Gulo junior tile is separated from the rest, and shuffled with four other tiles at random, to create a face-down pile which is placed next to the bowl. The remainder of the twenty-three octagonal tiles is shuffled, and is placed face down to form a path leading to the pile of tiles next to the bowl. Each player takes a “Gulo” (wolverine) plastic figure, and places it in front of the first tile on the pathway. The hungriest (which will always be me, if you play with me) player goes first, and then play proceeds clockwise around the table.

On a turn, a player decides where they will move on the track. They do so by carefully removing an egg from the bowl. If they successfully remove an egg, they can move to the next face-up tile of that color in front of them. This could involve having them skip several other tiles. If they want, and players on the first turns MUST do this, they can turn over the first face-down tile, but then they MUST try to steal an egg of that color from the bowl. The players must follow certain rules when stealing an egg...
- They can only use one hand.
- They must indicate which egg they will steal, and then steal that one.
- They can only grab the egg they selected, and only move other eggs by accidentally bumping them.
- The stolen egg is placed in a cloth bag.
- They must not displace the alarm pole. If the alarm pole hits the table, or another egg falls out of the bowl, the alarm is tripped.
When the alarm is tripped, the player must move their Gulo backwards to the last color of the egg that they tried to steal. They must also mix all the eggs in the cloth bag and pour them back into the bowl, resetting the alarm stick. But whether a player succeeds or fails, play passes to the next person, unless the player has stolen the last egg of a color - which gives them an extra turn.

When a player reaches the final stack of tiles, they turn over the top one, and attempt to steal an egg of that color. If successful, they go again, and continue thus until they get to the Gulo junior tile. Once that tile is reached, the player must steal a purple egg, which if successful - will win them the game. However, if the alarm is sounded on this attempt, the bowl is reset, and the Gulo junior tile is placed at the bottom of the pile. Play continues until one player successfully steals a purple egg - giving them victory of the game!

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: Absolutely incredible! The whole theme of having wolverines steal swamp vulture eggs is interesting, but the game frankly looks like a thematic Easter design. The very nice-to-handle eggs fit in a beautiful, well-polished bowl, which makes a terrific centerpiece to the table and the game. Even the little plastic wolverine tokens are rather cute looking and come in a variety of pastel colors, adding to the “Easter” effect. The alarm pole is pretty nifty, and even though my daughter does call it “egg-on-a-stick”, it works fairly well. The tiles are of extreme thickness, and because they have white borders, seem like they could take a fairly hefty beating and still look fairly new. And of course, it’s always nice to see a game that uses octagonal tiles rather than hexes. The artwork on the hexes is distinct, as are the sizes of the eggs - so a color-blind person could easily be taught which size is what color - and then play the game with few problems. The artwork on the tiles and the box is very kiddish and cartooney, but fits the theme well, and everything fits well in the sturdy, large square box.

2.) Rules: The rules are four full-color pages with illustrations and examples. More than you would think for a game this simple, but apparently the designers wanted to leave nothing to chance. The game is extremely easy to teach people, even little folk - and there is a special rule section in the back of the rules with tips for speeding up the game for young children. My four-year old daughter picked up the game quite quickly, and had a lot of fun playing it.

3.) Dexterity: I understand that there are some people who just don’t like dexterity games, which I understand. I’ve never been a big fan of Jenga, because my shaky hand just destroys me in that game. And this game reminds me quite a bit of Jenga, as you are pulling eggs out of a bowl, not to dissimilar to pulling wooden blocks out of a tower. In both games you are praying that something won’t fall over. But the eggs aren’t as hard to pull over, except to those with fat fingers. And lo and behold, this gives an advantage to kids! Sometimes you have to pull an egg out, and it’s just not going to happen. But then the kid does it, and you feel clumsy and awkward. But they are feeling great because THEY JUST BEAT DAD!

4.) Ages: The game seems to be directed at children, what with the theme and the huge, colorful bright pieces. It’s not impossible for a group of adults to play and enjoy it, however. Yet, I think that the game best shines when played with a mixed group of both adults and kids - because all of them have a fighting chance. I slack off a bit against my four-year old daughter, but am seriously wondering if this will last another playing - as she is catching up to my meager skills quite quickly.

5.) Fun Factor: As with most dexterity games, much of the fun comes from watching someone else mess up. Yet the game itself, with both theme and eye candy effect, adds to the fun. It’s short, fun, and we can play it, then put it away - satisfied with the experience. When you play a short game like this once or twice a week, it doesn’t get old quickly, and your kids will soon begin to look forward to the “award” of playing it.

The game is worth the price based on components alone, it’s a decent dexterity game, even if you don’t have the pleasure of having any small children. But with children, especially those under ten years of age, this game is a real hoot! And to have a game that can be played by small children, teenagers, adults, and - well basically anyone, and enjoyed by all - isn’t that the mark of a game that should be on all our game shelves?

Tom Vasel

Anonymous
[Review] Gulo Gulo

Thanks for the review, and the note about Kids of Catan.

Our own 4-year old daughter is starting to really get into board games - and let me tell you, as I'm sure you're already aware, Candyland is fairly stupid and as she's a bit ahead, it isn't really a thinker for her. Still, she enjoys it..

Anyway, I'm on the lookout for good games, so thanks again for the review.

Cheers
Andrew

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
[Review] Gulo Gulo

I bought Gulo Gulo for my brother's family. My niece is 6 and the four of us (she, her parents, and I) had a great time playing it -- as Tom notes she did really well with her little fingers and we definitely all felt like we were on equal footing. Great fun.

-- Matthew

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