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[Review] Thing-a-ma-Bots

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Joined: 03/23/2011

Kids like silly games - that's a simple fact, and one that adults must realize if they wish to play games that the KIDS like, not games that the adults like. Thing-a-ma Bots (Gamewright, 2006 - Bernie DeKoven) exudes silliness with ridiculous artwork and crazy, inane rules. The game claims to be for ages six and older, yet it seems to be agreeable to younger children - even four year olds. With the popularity of the recent children's movie "Robots", which the artwork in this game is reminiscent of, I think Thing-a-ma Bots has a lot of potential for children.

Okay, I found the game a bit silly for me, although I found myself laughing at the inane names that people made up. But my six year old daughter loves it, and the silly name generation was something that really clicked with her The game can be used to teach matching, memory, and imagination - useful qualities for a game to promote; and these, combined with its silliness, cause the game to become a prime candidate for purchasing.

A deck of sixty cards (twelve different robots - five of each) is shuffled and dealt face down evenly to all of the players. One player is chosen to go first (alphabetically) and flips over the top card from their pile into a center pile. The next player does the same thing, etc.

When a player flips over a specific robot for the first time, they must give it a name - anything they so desire - saying the name out loud. The next time the same robot is revealed, the first player to correctly call out their name wins all the cards in the center pile, adding them to their personal "win" pile. This starts a new round, with all the robots having yet again new names. Robots on the top of each player's win pile are called "Thing-a-ma-bots" - and any time a matching robot to one of these is played, the first player to yell "Thing-a-ma-Bot!" steals the other player's win pile.

When there are ties between players shouting, they split the card equally; and when players shout out the wrong name or make some other mistake, they must forfeit one card from their win pile. The game continues until one player is out of cards from their deck. At this point the game ends, and the player with the most cards in their win pile is declared the winner!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Art: I've already mentioned the artwork, which is drawn in a cartoonish way, with ragtag robots in a variety of shapes and colors (a robot dog, a robot that looks like a pile of cans put together, etc.) The humorous illustrations add to the silliness of the game and have characteristics that might help people when deciding on their new name. Some of the robots are of the same basic color or shape, which might cause a bit of confusion for players (I'm sure this is deliberate); but each robot is ultimately their own unique shape.

2.) Components: The cards are of good quality with white borders, although I'm surprised that the back of the cards don't show the name of the game but rather the series of games (12 minute games). I didn't care much for the box, which is great for hanging in a store but not so good for storing the cards. (I've replaced mine with a simple plastic case.)

3.) Names: Kids love it when I tell them that can make up any name they want. Maybe they'll name the robots after friends or family members, or characters from their favorite book or TV show. Better yet, maybe they'll make up a crazy name that's funny for everyone to say. Yes, this is pure silliness, but it's gold when it comes to what younger kids like. When I teach kids of all ages, I'm sure to elicit a chuckle when I make up an odd name for someone in a story or example. An entire game based on this concept may seem tedious for adults, but children are guaranteed to enjoy it!

4.) Memory: The game is slightly evocative of Slamwich, or other games in which cards are flipped in the middle of the table to which a match is found. In that regard, there really isn't anything special about Thing-a-ma Bot. What makes the game unique is its theme and the allowance for a bit of personal creativity. I found that the "Thing-a-ma-bot" rule is a bit tense and cutthroat for younger (around the age of five or six) players, but slightly older kids warm to the stealing of each others' cards.

5.) Time and Fun Factor: Thing-a-ma Bots is part of Gamewright's "12 Minute Games" series - and for good reason. Games are short and quick, which will keep the game from wearing out its welcome and the players' creativity (just how many names do we have to think up?!). Kids will warm to the game, and adults will tolerate it - I don't see the game ever being played without at least one child present.

And thus lies my recommendation for Thing-a-ma Bots. It's creative, fun, and interesting - IF you either are playing with children or are a child. Adults should seek their "filler" fun elsewhere, as this will seem boring and too childish for them. Kids, on the other hand, will have a blast playing the game, and wonder why adults don't have a good sense of humor.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

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