Reviewed by Deborah Banasko
My children are a huge fan of Orchard Games so I’m trying to approach this review without any bias. My children are aged 9, 6 and almost 3 years, and whilst my older two are still entertained by the toddler-targeted Orchard Games that we have for my youngest and very willing to play with him, I was delighted to be sent three games which covered all of their ages.
The three games arrived in a sturdy cardboard box packed with paper to prevent any damage to the game boxes. Orchard games have a very distinct game box design, making the brand instantly recognisable. The logo always features in the top corner, but the bright colours with human and often silly animal illustrations really do catch the eye.
With all of the games the instructions were very clear, and the game can be started within a couple of minutes of opening the box which is my favourite type of game! As expected, the game pieces are made from strong cardboard and have lovely vibrant colours.
The first game, a brand new game called Wiggly Words, is one that I love as it makes children really think! The idea is simple and follows the same general principal as dominos only with parts of words, and the game pieces actually fit together like a jigsaw.
There are 45 double-sided worm cards depicting a range of crazy worm characters, and containing half of a word on each side. Each player takes 6 cards, whilst the remaining cards are divided into two piles. One of the top cards is selected and placed onto the table to be used as the starting card. Player 1 then has to try to create a word by adding one of their cards to the starting piece for example “sp” to “out” to create the word “spout”. If you cannot make a word, choose a card from one of the piles and miss a turn. Play continues until no-one is able to create a word or until a player uses up their cards and wins the game. The idea is to create a long wiggly worm of words.
This is a great way to help children with their spelling and vocabulary, even my 9 year old enjoyed it. Whilst this is a game for the whole family, the children who will benefit the most in terms of their language and literacy skills would be in the 6 to 8 age range (possibly age 5 depending upon your child’s ability). I love the concept and it really is great fun to play, especially when a parent (me!) doesn’t realise that they can create a word but your smug 6 year old does and offers to help! There’s a real achievement when you create these huge chains of words and worms and I can see this being one that we play time and time again.
The price of £8.50 is more than fair for the quality and the amount of play that you can get from this game. I would happily pay a little more to be honest. Whilst the number of game pieces is plenty at the moment, I do hope that they will launch an “add-on” set with extra worms and sections of words in the future.
Dizzy Donkey is the second game in the bundle. Players take turns selecting a blue and a yellow card, then choose one of the actions or feelings shown on their yellow card and act it out in the persona of one the characters from the blue. If the other players guess your character and action/feeling then you keep your cards. If a dizzy donkey card is turned over then the donkey playing piece (used by all players) moves one space on the game board. When the donkey reaches the carrots at the end of the board, the game ends and the player with the most cards wins.
With this game you have to rely on honesty as I know some siblings may try to sabotage a turn by refusing to guess.
It’s a great game for the imagination and to build confidence. It is targeted at age 5 and above which seems perfect to me, as my 6 and 9 year olds love this game. We even got my youngest involved by helping him to act out the actions with his hands and facial expressions. I like how the game to come to an end so that you can start again, as it can become quite long when your kids are theatrical.
I love that there is an element of choice on your turn, making it easier for younger children. This is a game that does get quite silly, particularly if you get a little too “into character” as I do. As with the previous game I do think an “add-on” set may be required once we have exhausted these cards, but there is plenty game play for the money particularly as the instructions also give you two other ways to play the game.
The final game is from their mini-game series, and is called Penalty Shoot-out. This one is for 2 to 4 players between the ages of three and seven, so is perfect for my youngest and his older brother. Both boys play football, so the football shirts and goal on the box got them excited and keen from the off. It took me just a minute to pop the game pieces out of the cardboard frames and we were ready to play.
Players take turns rolling the dice then select one of the 24 football shirts which corresponds to the number on the dice. If there are no shirts remaining which match the number on the dice then you miss a turn. Once all of the cards have been taken, players count the number of footballs on the back of their card to determine the winner.
With the target age starting at 3, it would have been helpful if the numbered shirts had dots or even shapes which relate to the shirt number which can be counted so that the game is accessible to every player. My youngest had to be told which shirt he could choose after he rolled the dice, so instead we tested his colours and told him to select the blue shirt for example.
However I do appreciate that the game is practicing numeral recognition, so I personally would say that that the perfect age range would be from three and a half to four years old until about 6 depending upon your child. It’s a mini-game designed to support learning and cover that short period where your child is just starting to read and learn numbers, which is reflected by the low price-point of £5.35.
I did like that shirts of the same number had the same shirt colour and design, as this will act as a prompt until children eventually recognise the numeral itself so this is a good learning strategy.
This game is the perfect sized travel game . We like to take this type of game out to a restaurant, or even play in the car or on holiday. It takes 5 to 10 minutes to play and is a great way to have fun and pass a little bit of time whilst learning numbers and basic addition.
These games were just as I expected from Orchard Games; high quality, well-priced, fun and easy to just pick up and play without too much instruction. Key learning skills are tested and I love a game that is educational, without my children even realising as they are just having fun. These games are designed to play time and time again at a fantastic price, so it is a very easy and well deserved 5 stars out of 5.
Wiggly Words £8.50
Dizzy Donkey £8.50
Penalty Shoot out £5.35
This product can be purchased from Orchard games here.