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[Review] Match of the Penguins

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Joined: 03/23/2011

In many of my game reviews, I often mention whether or not the game is colorblind friendly. Match of the Penguins (Gamewright, 2006 - Jacques Zeirnet) is certainly a game which might drive a colorblind person mad, as differentiating between colors is critical for doing well in the game. Match of the Penguins is a game in which players are to quickly find matches between penguins with the same color characteristics, marketed as a children's game with colorful pictures.

Match of the Penguins is a rather odd game, though, as it really isn't so easy for young children, especially those who meet the minimum age requirements (six years and older). Not only are players looking for matching characteristics on penguins, they are looking for several at one time, and I found that this can simply overwhelm some of the little ones. It's a memory game for children - but one with enough going on that I think it will interest adults - although sometimes it's a little too taxing on one's eyes and brain to be completely fun for kids. I found it an interesting game, one that I wouldn't play often, but one that makes for an appealing diversion.

A deck of sixty-four cards is shuffled and placed face down in the middle of the table, along with three tokens, two black and one white. One player takes the deck and begins the first round - in which they slowly take each card from the top of the deck and place it in a line face up on the table. Each card in the deck either shows a penguin with six different colored elements - an umbrella, sunglasses, lei, fish, blanket, and shirt, in one of six colors (yellow, green, orange, red, purple, and blue), or a close-up of one of the elements. A few of the penguins have two fish in their buckets, which is important for gameplay.

There are four different ways in which a player can find a match - each which has a different ranking. Each player must attempt to find one of the matches and call it out with the player finding the highest ranking winning either one or all the face up cards. The four types of matches, from highest to lowest are…
- Two cards that have one element that are the same (for example, both have orange leis). If no higher ranking match is found, the finding player must call out the match, and wins all face up cards.
- Two cards that have more than one element that are the same (for example, both have a blue shirt and an orange blanket). Each player who finds this match, with no higher ranking match, must grab one of the black pawns, winning one face up card (with the rest discarded).
- Two identical cards that are completely the same. If a player sees this, they grab the white pawn and win all face up cards.
- The highest match is if any card on the table has two fish in its pail. The first player to knock on the table wins all face up cards.

A player can find a match even after another player calls out a match, as long as they find a higher match. Otherwise, the player with the highest match found takes the cards they've won and adds them to a pile in front of them. If a player makes a mistake at any time, they must discard one of their won cards. The game continues until the final card from the deck has been turned over and any possible matches found. At this point, the player with the most cards in their pile is the winner!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: As I said in the beginning, a color blind person need not even attempt to play this game, as differentiating between colors is of prime importance. The artwork on the cards, of a fat satisfied penguin enjoying a summer vacation, is colorful and interesting. The cards themselves are of good quality, with white borders to prevent nicks from showing. The black and white pawns are very large and chunky - great for small hands, and able to take the pressure of people furiously grabbing them off the table. Everything fits inside a nice plastic insert in a small, colorful box.

2.) Rules: The rules are on a six page fold-out sheet (although it also includes Fun Flippin' Facts about Penguins). Everything is clearly explained in a nice, colorful format; and I really appreciated a chart showing the different matches, how to accomplish them, and their rankings. I found the rules to be easy to explain to an adult, but to young children (around age six and seven), they had a difficult time understanding that the matches were ranked. Their thoughts were more along the lines of "I found a match, why don't I get anything?" Other than that, however, the game goes smoothly, with younger folks often catching the multiple matches more than older people.

3.) Cards: I'm very impressed with the card distribution. With as many exact duplicates as there are in the deck, they don't turn up as often as you might think; and when they do, it's sometimes easy to overlook. The penguins with double fish are the most important - I would remind myself to only look at the fish, and then I would lose several rounds - turning my attention to the other parts of the penguin, only to have the blasted fish turn up again! Either way, it was like watching different color slides of the same picture, and I think the coloring mix was done very well.

4.) Ranks: I'm not sure I understand WHY the designer chose the ranking system that he did, with finding two cards with more than one element (which seems awfully hard sometimes) receiving only one card. But for some reason the system of ranking matches, which sound a bit convoluted when one first understands it, works well. Games come out even, and I have yet to see one player totally dominate the proceedings - although I have seen a few people who just "couldn't get it. Very rarely will more than four cards be turned over at one time, as a match is often found.

5.) Fun Factor: One of the good features of this game is that it plays quickly - sometimes taking only about ten or more minutes. It’s fifteen minutes of shouting, laughing, and deep concentration on the cards that are turned over. I have played better memory games, such as Mamma Mia!, but this one is very interesting, because it feels rather difficult; and players are watching six different things on each card, with the close-up cards mixing it up. The game seems to work best with middle to upper elementary, as they will grasp the rules easily and love the brightly colored penguins.

If you have children who are interested in a speed memory type game, then Match of the Penguins is a fairly fun one. Like some children's games (the good ones, anyway), this one also makes for a fun filler - even amongst groups of "gamer" adults. I wouldn't want to play it too often, but it's decent for a lark every once in a while, and it's a tremendous game for elementary school children. And how many of those are there that are any good? And about penguins?

Tom Vasel
"Real children play board games"

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