Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review: The Very Hungry Caterpillar Card Game

It was the lil'un's birthday last week, and one of her presents was the Very Hungry Caterpillar card game. We sat down as a family to play it with her, and well, let's see shall we...

The cards are You start with 5 cards each, and the idea of the game is to work through the week, by playing the cards with the days of the week marked showing what the caterpillar ate that day in the story. If you don't have the card you need, then you either pick one from the pile, or play the Sunday wildcard, that resets back to Monday. You win by getting rid of all your cards, and having a butterfly card. The stated goal of the game, apart from being 'fun' is to teach kids the days of the week.

The strength of this game is in it's theme, and how well the card game matches the book. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, like all the great kids books, is a very simple story well told. The cards are all decorated with images from the book with the original Eric Carle artwork that we all know and love, and this is very appealing, as all kids love this book. It even takes me back to reading it as a kid. Very pretty.

The idea is that you play through your hand, learning the days of the week as you go, then win when the only card you have left is a butterfly card, just like in the story. However, this is where this game falls apart. The simplicity of the story works against us here, as the designers have stuck to the script to the detriment of the play-ability of the game. We've played through it 4 times, on two of those games, we couldn't actually play to get a winner, and of one of those, I forced the game to work due to not shuffling the deck after having gone through the pack completely once. So of the 4 games, only once came out at a natural conclusion with a clear winner. The winning of the game is pure luck, with no skill involved.

Sunday is a wild card, when you can't play anything else, you play a Sunday card, and you reset back to Monday. In reality though, all this does is reset the blocked play to another day. It's fine to have more Sunday cards, but if there are just the same number of Monday cards to all the others, you hit a wall with Monday instead. You end up running through all your Sunday resets early in the game, then being completely stuck unable to complete the game. This leads to frustration in the big'un, who gets the rules and wants to play through, and boredom in the lil'un, who, although the game is supposed to be for 3+, just isn't old enough for the rules as written, who then wanders off to do something else.

The other clunky mechanic is the butterfly card. You need one to win, but if you draw more than one, you put the other one back in the pile (it is not stated where). This just seems inelegant to me. I know there want to make it a mechanic to get the butterfly, and there are only 4 in the game, but having to put it back in the pile once you have one seems not to be the best way to make this happen.

Overall, a poorly thought out game, with no real draw. The cards are pretty, and could be used for a matching game, but the rules are broken to the point that you'd have to start from scratch rather than house-rule some fixes, although we are going to try with making the Sunday card a Wildcard that can replace any day, but doesn't reset the game to Monday. The box is pretty, and the illustrations are fun, but there are better ways to teach your kids the days of the week. Finally, the game is supposed to be for 3+, but the reading of the days of the days of the week is beyond most 3 year old. Lil'un is now 4, and she lost interest quickly. Don't bother buying this one.

The game on Boardgamegeek.com where it was given 3.59/10. Which I think is a fair score.
Buy it, or don't, on amazon.ca.


  1. I never could get my son interested in board games. :( Now as social media takes hold, I think it will be nigh impossible to ever get him hooked on board games.

    1. Yeah, I'm lucky that one of the girls has an interest in games of this type, but the other, no patience!
      50% interest isn't bad, and I'm not going to complain if I can get one hooked! ;)