Family Game Review: Quackgammon
Rating: Buy It
QuackGammon is a fun, fast game that takes the basic rules of backgammon and wraps them in a game that kids can understand easily. But that’s not to say adults won’t have a good time with this simple turn-based movement game.
With QuackGammon, Endless Games has done a good job of boiling backgammon down to its most basic level and and getting rid of concepts that might be a bit too complex for kids. The game pits two players against each other in a race to get their rubber duckies to round the game board and make it “home”. Players accomplish this by rolling one six-sided die and moving one of their three ducks that number of spaces. Ducks can only be moved off of the board by exact roll (more on that later), and there’s some strategy involving the classic idea of “bumping” your opponent’s pieces. Land on them exactly, and they go back to the start. But only if they’re on their own; if two of a player’s ducks are right next to each other, they’re both safe.
This game is fantastic for introducing small children to elements of board games that will be useful to them for the rest of their game-playing lives. The bumping mechanic alone will introduce them to strategy: Which of their three ducks do they move to get the most benefit? Do they move a duck to get to safety by pairing up with another duck? When do they skip bumping an opponent in order to get their own duck closer to home and closer to winning? These concepts, all disguised as the (admittedly) satisfying feeling of booting your opponent back to the start, should make the learning process fun enough for kids to keep them coming back. The game also does a great job getting kids used to the idea of taking turns, and realizing that their opponent’s turn also effects their turn in certain ways. The bumping is also easy enough to come back from that smaller kids won’t get frustrated and feel picked on. There’s plenty of opportunity to bump back for both players. Moving ducks off the board is only done by an exact roll of the number of spaces between you and the home space. All three games we played came down to each side having one duck, and seeing who would roll the magic number first. That could frustrate adults, but it can give small kids a chance to pull out a win, even against older siblings.
For adults, there’s not much here, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m a big fan of simple games, and this one meets that criteria in spades. Since it’s aimed at families to play together, the simplicity keeps it in range of every player, and the cute rubber ducks will keep younger ones entertained quack-quack-ing their way around the board.
Buy It if you have kids, or play games with kids, and want them to try a fun, quick game that will teach them some good fundamentals without driving you crazy. Try It if you’re not sure your kids will enjoy the basic gameplay. Skip It if you’re looking for the next Twilight Imperium (but if you are, and you’re looking at QuackGammon, you’ve got bigger problems…)