Monday 23 December 2013

Review - Dr Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Game

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Dr Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Game
Published by University Games
Designed by someone who chose (or was forced) to remain uncredited.
For 2 - 4 players, aged 4 to adult

How the Grinch Stole Christmas board game
It looks like a present! Cute!

My daughter turned three this December. She has been quite interested in board games for a little while, and we have been playing Parcheesi and the like over the last few months. It is truly wonderful to watch how her ability to play games is developing, and how much fun she has spending time with me, my wife (and sometimes our friends) playing board games. And yes, I admit, I was proud when I found out her most wanted birthday present was a board game she had seen on the television called Go Piggy Go (a game I will be reviewing another time, and which is surprisingly tactical and fun).

Anyway, as a result of my daughter's increased interest in games, I have started looking for more games I can play with her. And so, I picked up How the Grinch Stole Christmas in a little charity shop ready for the festive season. I didn't expect it to be very good, but I will play anything when my little girl is at the table: Snakes and Ladders, Junior Monopoly, Candyland, it really doesn't matter. The important thing is spending time with her, and...

What? Why are you looking at me like that?

Okay, okay, I'll confess: I love the Dr Seuss books. I think they are wonderfully inventive, and excellent for teaching children to read; and one of my favourite Christmas stories is How the Grinch Stole Christmas, so if I am being honest, I would have purchased this game no matter what. Besides, it gives me something interesting to write about.

Now, where was I?

Oh yeah. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is published by University Games as part of their Beginner Games series. Games in this series are exceptionally easy to learn, quick to play, and feature elements that help children to read and learn social skills. The focus here is on learning, and encouraging children to play well, and that means you can't really expect much from the game itself. Hardcore gamers need not apply.

Inside the box, you get a nicely illustrated mounted board, four cardboard player pieces in plastic stands, a spinner, and some lovely three-dimensional cardboard "Christmas presents." The quality is okay, but not in the same league as many modern games from companies such as Queen Games and Days of Wonder.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas game board
Forks in the path encourage decision-making for young children.

The game itself is simple. On your turn, you spin the spinner, and then move your playing piece that number of spaces.

Yeah. It's roll and move. What did you expect?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas player pieces
Roll and move? Hurrah!

Anyway, after moving, you look at the space you have landed on. If you land on a space with a letter on it, you get to pick up one of the presents and look at the bottom. If the bottom of the present shows a picture of a toy that contains the same letter as the letter your playing piece is on, you get to keep the present. If you don't get a match, you show everyone what you got, and then you return the present to the pile.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas presents
Merry Christmas!

As you can see, this is teaching a number of core skills. Counting (moving the piece), reading (matching an item to the letter you are on), and memory (remembering which presents have already been looked at, and what they contain). Forks in the path on the board also encourage simple decision-making and strategies.

This is basically the whole game. There are a few other special spaces, like Grinch spaces that make you return a present to the pile, and Cindy-Lou Who spaces that allow you to take and keep any present you want, but generally, you just try to match letters, and remember where the presents you need are. At the end of the game (one circuit of the board, which only takes a few minutes), the player with the most presents wins, but everyone gets to hold hands and sing "Welcome Christmas, Ba-hoo Bo-ray."

Yeah. Really. That's actually in the rules.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas rules
Who decided to print green ink on white paper?

The description in this review should tell you everything you need to know about the game, and whether you would actually enjoy it.

It's quick, it's simple, it's about the Grinch, and it's designed to be educational. For me, that makes it a perfect game to play with my daughter on Christmas Eve. And I guess that makes it one of the best games in the world. For now, at least.


  1. The game was created by University Game's Jeff Pinsker. The gameboard and box top/bottom were designed and illustrated by in house Art Director Chris Barcklay. The 3D presents and game player pieces were designed and illustrated by an unknown contract freelance designer.


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