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[Review] Ooga!

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  • Tom Vasel
    The game Ooga! (SimplyFun, 2005 - Dominique Ehrhard and Pierre-Nicolas Lapointe) sounds like Tim the Tool Man from Home Improvement invented it. It s a game
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 29, 2005
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      The game Ooga! (SimplyFun, 2005 - Dominique Ehrhard and
      Pierre-Nicolas Lapointe) sounds like "Tim the Tool Man" from Home
      Improvement invented it. It's a game with a caveman theme and
      involves players spearing tiles with plastic suction cups on the end
      of sticks. It's a game of speed, in which players attempt to collect
      sets of dinosaurs and attempt to appease their Tribal Chief, giving
      him the items on the menus that he demands. Although the theme is
      "manly" (I suppose), the game is certainly a light one and seems
      geared towards children.

      After several plays of the game, I have to say that I enjoy the idea,
      but the execution just doesn't work very well. It's a speed game, but
      it just doesn't happen the way it's supposed to. It's a game of
      speed, which many people don't like anyway; but the skill seems to be
      lost, as players can blindly stab at something and still do reasonably
      well. Almost every game I've played in ends in a close score, or a
      tie - and not because of the equal play of the players, but because
      the game simply seems to encourage it.

      Each player is given one "spear", a long wooden stick with a suction
      cup on the end of it. Sixty Dino tiles are shuffled, and twenty-five
      of them are placed in a face-up grid on the table. Each Dino tile
      shows either a bowl of fruit or one or two dinosaurs on one of three
      landscapes (plains, forests, or mountains). A stack of twelve menus
      is shuffled and placed face down in a pile, and four "bone" tiles are
      given to the "Tribal Chief" (oldest players). The first turn is ready
      to begin.

      The "Tribal Chief" flips the top menu card, which shows five or six
      dinosaurs - the ones that the Chief feels like eating that day. (For
      example, one Menu card shows two orange, one blue, one red, and one
      purple dinosaur.) The Chief then takes the Bone Tiles and throws them
      up in the air. As soon as they land, players look at the landscapes
      shown on any bones that are face up. Players then quickly "spear" one
      of the tiles in the grid, but it has to be one that has the same
      landscape as one of the face up tiles. Each player may only grab one
      tile and must do it quickly. The last player to grab a tile (ties
      broken by the Chief) does not get to keep their tile. All captured
      tiles are placed in front of the players, and the grid's empty spaces
      are filled in by new tiles from the pile. A new round begins, with
      the Chief throwing the bones up again. Players may never have more
      than six tiles in front of them.

      When one player has captured the correct combination of tiles that
      have the same dinosaurs as on the menu (each fruit basket is a "wild"
      tile), they shout "Ooga!". All hunting immediately stops, and the
      player discards the tiles, collecting the Menu tile. That player then
      becomes the new Tribal Chief and flips up a new menu. The game
      continues until all the menus are taken, and the player with the most
      menus is the winner! (Ties are broken by whoever was the Tribal Chief
      most during the game).

      Some comments on the gameā€¦

      1.) Components: The tiles are quite thick, which is good, since they
      are being stabbed, thrown around, and generally take a lot of wear and
      tear. The dinosaurs pictures on the cards are differentiated not only
      by color, but each different dinosaur is a different breed also,
      helping the color blind folk. The spears, which I'm sure could be a
      safety hazard in some situations, are about seven or eight inches long
      with a suction cup on them. Even after some pretty intense playing,
      mine still work well, and they easily grab up tiles. The bone tiles
      are actually in the shape of a bone and certainly add some to the
      theme. All of the tiles fit in a tremendously custom plastic insert
      inside a medium box, with humorous cartoonish caveman artwork all
      throughout. Extremely nice components.

      2.) SimplyFun: As with all SimplyFun games, Ooga is available from a
      party at which a SimplyFun representative shows off the games. If you
      have a chance to go to one of these parties (or better yet host!), it
      will give you a chance to try out Ooga before buying it.

      3.) Rules: The rulebook is six pages long, with full color pictures,
      examples, and tips for the player. The first page, as with all
      SimplyFun games, is a summary of "Quick Rules", which really are all
      that are needed to play the game, although the extra pages are nice.
      Ooga! is a very simplistic game, and I've had no trouble teaching it
      to anyone from my five year old daughter to groups of teens and
      pre-teens to adults. It's one of the easiest games I've taught.

      4.) Spearing and Fun Factor: Let's get right down to it - spearing
      the tiles with the suction cups is certainly the most fun part of the
      game, and certainly going to be the biggest draw. As soon as people
      see the components, it's going to interest them - who doesn't like
      playing with suction cups? Sadly, that's about the extent of the
      game's fun (at least for me.) Yes, it's fun to snag a tile from the
      table, but a player has to move so quickly (or they lose out), that
      players simply grab the nearest tile. Yes, it might be a mistake, but
      chances are good that it won't be - so why not just randomly stab? If
      everyone else takes their time, you can peruse the tiles a bit more;
      but other than that, just spear and hope. Some laughter may occur,
      but even my kids looked a little bored after playing the game through.

      5.) Even Steven: One thing that bothers me about the game is how easy
      it is to stay competitive. If Johnny gets six dinosaurs and Susie
      gets six dinosaurs, having Johnny complete the menu is no big deal to
      Susie; since she keeps all of her tiles for the next menu, which she
      may win as soon as the tile is turned face up! Almost every game I've
      played or observed (5+), the game has ended in a tie - and the
      tiebreaker (the player who has been the Tribal Chief the most) really
      doesn't give a satisfactory feel, as the person who goes first usually
      wins. To me, that spells out that Ooga is an activity and not really
      a game.

      6.) Strategy: There's really not much strategy in the game. Simply
      grab a tile that helps you. It's almost always best to grab one with
      two dinosaurs, as there's rarely a benefit to getting a tile with one
      and no negative effects by grabbing two. The fruit baskets are all
      gone on the first turn that they are available, so not much strategy
      there. I suppose that's my biggest problem with Ooga - the fact that
      it seems like there SHOULD be some strategy when in fact, there isn't.

      If you want a game in which you can spear tiles with suction cup
      sticks, then maybe you'll want Ooga! For me, the game simply doesn't
      hold up after the initial "cool" factor. It's a bit bland and doesn't
      offer many real choices. It's a real time game, which may interest
      some people but works best as a novelty, not a game. And I have
      plenty of novelty games already.

      Tom Vasel
      "Real men play board games"
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