Reviewed by Melody Floyde
I was delighted to be asked to review a selection of Orchard Toys products ready for Christmas and my 5-year-old son was beyond excited when the big box arrived on our doorstep and he couldn’t wait to get stuck in. For us Christmas is all about family time and this usually involves playing a lot of games together. As a family we love Orchard Toys games as they are always fun and educational so we couldn’t wait to try out some new ones as potential Christmas gifts for friends and family.
First up was the Games Compendium (RRP: £16.95) which has an amazing 4 games in 1 and comes in an impressively large box. The box is big and brightly coloured, and even has a carry handle and is very appealing to look at. We didn’t waste any time in trying out the contents. The box contains everything you need to play four different games – Old MacDonald Game, Monster Dominoes, Red Dog Colour Game and Jungle Snakes and Ladders and as with all Orchard Toys games there were really clear instructions included. These games are aimed at children aged 3-6 years and are for two to four players so perfect for a family to play together. The pieces are cleverly designed so that some pieces, e.g. the coloured counters and plastic playing pieces are used for multiple games in the set.
We all enjoyed playing Jungle Snakes and Ladders, the game board was really bright and colourful and we loved the jungle characters hiding in amongst the snakes and ladders as we made our way to the top of the monkey’s tree. I used to play snakes and ladders as a child, so it was lovely to play with my own children but with a modern twist. My son enjoyed it so much he didn’t even seem to mind when he had to slide down the snakes (maybe because they were “friendly” snakes!) and he enjoyed following the numbers which helped him to practice his counting.
The Monster Dominoes were also good fun, there were 28 sturdy domino cards decorated with different types of monsters all based on different shapes. I loved that the dominoes were so bright and colourful and the monsters all looked very friendly. We all really enjoyed playing this game and it was very easy for my son to match up the monsters by colour/shape. Again, dominoes was another game I used to play with my own parents, so it was lovely to play another traditional game with my own children. My only negative on this game was that if there are four players, then there are no spare cards to pick up if you can’t go as all the cards are dealt out at the start. But this is only a tiny negative.
Old MacDonald Game is another board game, this time using a coloured dice to move around the coloured spaces on the board and collecting animals as you go. Each time you land on a coloured space, you have to pick up a disc of the same colour but the great thing is that you don’t look at the other side of the disc, which is where animals are hiding, until the end of the game. So once somebody has reached the last space on the board and the game ends, you get to turn over your discs and count how many animals you have collected – the winner being the person with the most. I really loved this idea as it really was a complete surprise who wins, and even if you are last on the board you could still win if you have lots of animals hiding under your discs. We really enjoyed this game and again it helped my son with his counting and colour recognition.
The last game in the compendium was the Red Dog Colour Game, which again used the coloured dice and discs and had game boards with different characters (including the Red Dog where the game gets its name from). The aim of the game was to be the first person to complete all of the coloured spots on your character. We all felt that this game was aimed at younger children than the other games in the box as it was very simple so I assume this would be more for 3 year olds rather than 6 year olds. It was still a lovely quick game though.
Overall, we were really impressed with this compendium of games which would make an awesome Christmas present for a family with young children and is great value.
The next game we tried was Knights and Dragons which is new for 2019 (RRP: £8). It is for children aged 4+ and for 2-4 players and is a twist on a traditional matching game. The aim of the game is to collect as many knights as you can without them being scared away by the dragons. The game consists of 40 bright and colourful knight cards (tops and bottoms to be matched); 6 awake dragon cards, 4 sleeping dragon cards and some castle scene cards.
Everyone starts off with two knight bottom cards which need to be matched with top cards from the pile, whilst avoiding the dragons as they chase away the knights into the centre of the table. If you’re lucky, and you find a sleeping dragon card, you can rescue all the knights from the centre and keep them. My absolute favourite thing about this game is that the length of the game is decided by chance, as there are also six castle cards mixed in which build a castle scene, when this is completed the game ends so some games were really quick, others a little longer. The winner is the person with the most complete knights at the end of the game.
We all absolutely loved this game and have played it so many times over the last few days I can safely say this is our new favourite game and would make a great Christmas present for any children who love Knights and Dragons.
We were also sent a couple of potential stocking fillers to try out. Firstly we tried Llamas in Pyjamas (RRP: £5) which is a Mini Game. This is another matching game for 3-6 year olds, this time matching top and bottoms of llamas in their (very cool) pyjamas. There are also a couple of additional elements to make the game more interesting than being just a simple matching game, there are alarm clock cards which if you get one you have to give up part of your llama and four bed scene cards – which join together to make a picture of a llama in bed. Once the scene is complete the game is over and the winner is the person who has the most complete llamas. We really enjoyed this game, it has been really cleverly designed with the additional aspects to make it fun and interesting, and is very compact so doesn’t take up much space and would be absolutely perfect as a stocking filler.
Finally, we were sent a Things to Do Sticker Activity Book (RRP: £3). The book is aimed at 5+ year olds and as soon as he saw it my 5-year-old son got out his pens and sat down quietly to look at it on his own (which is very unusual for him!). The book is full of different activities including spot the difference, word searches, crosswords, dot to dots, mazes etc. to keep children occupied and what I really loved was that as well as all the activities it is also a colouring book and sticker book so it really did keep my son’s attention. Some of the activities were too difficult for him but his 8-year-old brother also loved the book and was able to complete the crosswords etc. and he also enjoyed it.
This book would make an amazing stocking filler gift for children, and is ideal for keeping them occupied (and quiet!) during a busy family Christmas. There are also other books available in the same range.
We loved all of the Orchard Toys products we were sent and all of them would make perfect Christmas gifts for children that can be enjoyed by the whole family. I would give them all 5 out of 5 and am already planning on buying some of the mini games for party gifts for my son’s friends!
For more information or to buy visit www.orchardtoys.com.