Gnomes at Night: Straight Up Cooperation
“The queen’s treasures have been stolen! The thief was last seen running through the winding maze of the castle, dropping them along the way. The queen calls on two of her trusty gnome friends to help! Guide the gnomes through the maze to find all the treasures and return them to the queen in time!”
We seem to have a thing for games with vertical boards lately. Maybe because they foster a different kind of cooperation and make it easy for spectators to feel like they are involved in the gameplay. Gnomes at Night is another example what a clever designer can do with a vertical game board.
Set up the special stand that attaches to the game box. Choose one of the puzzle-like game boards (labeled A,B,C,D in order of difficulty) and slot it vertically into the stand.
Set up the two gnome movers in a randomly selected corner. They’re magnetized and will stick to each other through the game board. Players must sit on opposite sides of the board to play. Shuffle the treasure cards and set the stack where both players can easily see them.
Begin by simultaneously turning over the timer and the top treasure card. Find the location of the treasure (each treasure appears only on one side of the board) and start talking to the other player(s).
Work together to move the gnomes towards the treasure. Only one person can move the gnomes at any given time; their actions will “pull” the gnome mover on the opposite side of the board.
You are not allowed to move your gnome through the walls on your side of the maze; but the walls are not the same on both sides of the board! Your partner(s) may be able to move their gnome in a way that pulls your gnome through walls.
Roadblocks are common. Keep backtracking until you find a way to the treasure. Once there, set aside the treasure card and start working on the next one.
The round is over when the sand timer runs out. Give yourselves 1 point for each treasure you successfully found. Play 3 rounds, shuffling cards between each round, to get your final score.
More than 2 players? Not a problem! Split into “teams” on each side of the board. Use the cleverly-designed Team Cards to assign each team member a color. Each treasure card has two colored gems on it which correspond to the 2 teams. A player may only move the gnomes when their assigned color is present on the treasure card.
Gnomes at Night is addictive and fun. The vertical board fosters true cooperation. A charismatic player can’t just bully the others into doing the “right” moves, because they can’t see half the board. Instead, we’re forced to communicate, clearly and succinctly; each group of players may come up with their own shorthand terms (or frantic pointing) to tell each other which way to go.
The race for the treasure puts the pressure on the players; since each round only lasts 2½ minutes, an entire game is done in less than 10 minutes. We found our kids lining up to take turns, wanting to play again and again.
Gnomes at Night plays best at 2 players but the team play feature for 3-4 players is well designed. No worries about keeping track of turns; the cards tell you whose turn it is to move and keep everyone invested with each new treasure.
We love the difficulty levels presented by the different maze boards. Board “A” is a great introduction, and the right difficulty level to play with kids who have trouble with puzzles. If it becomes too easy, there are other options. Board “D” is very challenging, with lots of narrow twisty passageways and dead-ends. You’ll do a lot of backtracking to make progress here!
Unlike some games that add additional rules or mechanics to increase difficulty, Gnomes at Night only does this with more complex mazes. Because of this, the game play can get a little stale with older gamers. Still fun, but ultimately you are doing the same thing as board A, just with a higher difficulty level.
It’s unavoidable that there is some down time with more than two players playing, but the spectator aspect of Gnomes at Night is strong. So, it wasn’t a problem for our family, but something to note.
I would have liked the magnets on the gnomes to be a little stronger, as sometimes it feels like the lightest touch will separate them and cause them to fall into the tray below; resulting in restarting in a corner. But this might be part of the difficulty on purpose!
Of course, Peaceable Kingdoms targeted Gnomes at Night to a younger age demographic, so this isn’t a huge problem. They’ve done an excellent job here making a game that adults and older children are happy to play, and with a 10 minute play time, no one will feel left out for long.
Find Gnomes at Night on Amazon or at your local toy store.
Gnomes at Night from Peaceable Kingdom
Age Range: 6+ (we say 4+ with teams)
Number of Players: 2-4
Play Time: 15 minutes (including setup)