Thursday, 5 August 2010

Viva Topo! and Didi Dotter

Both Viva Topo! and Didi Dotter are children's games that I tried at Carcasean. Both are quite simple, so I'll write about both in the same post.

In Viva Topo! each player has a family of mice and uses them to collect as much cheese as they can. The game board is a circular track, with multiple stops. Each stop has four pieces of cheese, with the earlier stops having smaller pieces, and the last stop (i.e. finish line) having the biggest pieces. The mice race to collect cheese. They move by die roll. The pip distribution is 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Then 1 sides also show a cat, and the cat is the exciting part of the game. The cat starts rough halfway around the track opposite from the starting point for the mice. On your turn, you roll the die and move only one of your mice. If you roll a 1, you must also move cat. You need to move your mice quickly to avoid getting caught by the cat. Sometimes you need to settle for the smaller cheese pieces. If the cat is approaching, you may want to get your mouse to escape to an earlier stop. You get a smaller piece of cheese, but at least you mouse is safe now (once a mouse reaches a stop, it cannot move anymore).

The cat movement doubles in the later part of the game, cranking up the tension. The game ends when all mice have reached stops or have been caught.

The game board all set up and ready to go, for 3 players. The cat icons on the race track show the cat movement. The cat initially moves 1 step every time the cat icon is rolled on the die, but will later move 2 steps instead. The four corners are intermediate stops where mice can hide and claim smaller pieces of cheese. Each has two entry points. To claim the biggest cheese pieces a mouse needs to complete the full circle and get to the cheese castle at the centre.

The cat in Viva Topo! looks hungry.

At most four mice are allowed on any one space.

The starting box is a cosy mouse home. At this point one of Chong Sean's mice (blue) had reached the cheese castle and had claimed one of the biggest cheese pieces, but two of his mice were still at home. If the cat reaches the front door, they would be out of the game immediately.

The die. Two sides feature 1 and cat-face. The other four sides are 2 to 5.

Racing down the track. The cat is slowly approaching.

This little red mouse dived to safety and claimed a 2-segment cheese piece before the cat could catch it.

This is a simple and fun game. It's "only" a roll-and-move game, but there is actually some strategy in deciding which mouse to move. Should you focus on moving one or two mice to get them to reach the big pieces of cheese? Should you get a mouse to safety now or gamble on it being about to reach the next stop and get a bigger piece of cheese?

It's nothing deep, but there are some interesting decisions. It's quite exciting. And the mice (and cheese) are cute. I'm going to get a copy and I think my children (5 and 3) will like it.

Didi Dotter has cute components too - 12 rubber eggs. Each egg is made up of two halves, which can be attached together because the flat surfaces have magnets. The flat surfaces also have matching drawings. When the game starts, all half-eggs are placed face-down on the table and shuffled. Then each player picks one half-egg and put it in his egg cup. The game is a real-time game. Once the game starts, players try to find a half-egg in the middle of the table that matches his own half-egg, or any of his opponents' half-eggs. Once you find a match, stick the two halves together and claim that egg by putting it in your egg holder. When your egg cup is empty, you can choose (a) whether and (b) when to refill it with a half-egg from the centre of the table.

Setting up the game.

A round ends when all matching half-eggs have been found. Sometimes two players may be holding the two matching halves of an egg. It that case noone gets it. When a round ends you check the matches that you've made. There are 11 types of birds in the game, and you need to have matched all 11 types to win the game. 11 round discs are used to track this. One of the eggs has drawings of a fox. That's a joker and you can treat it as any bird type.

The 11 types of fowl.

The game is fast and furious. You need speed. Good memory helps, and a bit of luck doesn't hurt either. Things get pretty crazy once the game starts. And it's over very quickly. Don't even think about stopping to ask a rule question. That's what happened to Michelle. Chong Sean and I were so absorbed in the action that we couldn't stop to think or to answer her. Needless to say, she came in last. Now that wasn't very gentlemanly of us was it? Well, we were just being kids. Our game ended after the 3rd round.

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