Hoyle Play games: Catch’n Fish, Sharks are Wild, Piggy Bank
Hoyle, the familiar name in playing cards, is introducing its own line of original card games for kids, under the brand name Hoyle Play. Their motto is “fun with room for a lesson”. The Family Gamers were given three of these games to try. All three reinforce early math skills, but are they fun enough to keep playing?
Catch’n Fish is a twist on Go Fish that reinforces addition and subtraction skills. Spin the spinner, add two cards from your hand to equal the sum shown on the spinner, creating a “catch”. Drawing new cards follows standard Go Fish rules. First player to collect five “catches” wins. Cleverly, the larger numbers take up larger shares of the wheel, so you are much more likely to spin a 10 than a 2. For more advanced play, flip the spinner over to reveal the subtraction side (smaller numbers take up larger shares of the wheel) and subtract two cards rather than adding them.
I enjoyed playing this game with my kids. It took the standard Go Fish and added a little bit more thought instead of simply making pairs. I watched them decide how to add up to the number on the spinner, since there’s usually more than one way to get to a number. I think we’ll be pulling this out again to keep practicing our addition and subtraction facts.
Sharks are Wild
Sharks are Wild reinforces sequencing: counting both forwards and backwards. Each player starts with a number 5 “starter card” on the table and an open hand of five cards (numbers 0-4, 6-9, and wild). On his turn, a player draws a card, then either plays a card into his sequence or discards. Once a player has achieved a sequence of five cards (including the starter card), they receive a coin, discard the sequence, and start again. A Shark card is wild, and may be played anywhere in a sequence. Playing a Shark also rewards the player with an additional coin. Advanced play includes Octopus cards to steal from another player’s sequence and Dolphin cards to block the steal. First player to receive five coins wins.
I was disappointed by Sharks are Wild. Sequence-building is rare in games for younger children, and I was hoping my kids would learn to think ahead. Unfortunately, the rules are poorly written: it took us until the third play to realize number sequences couldn’t have any gaps, and we still don’t know if an Octopus can be used multiple times (since drawing from the discard pile is allowed). Awarding coins to Shark cards unbalanced the game and made it too dependent on luck: every time we played, the winner was always the player who drew the most Sharks. Changing this mechanic (Sharks are wild but do not award coins) meant that the winner was no longer purely determined by luck. With clearer rules, this could be good game for a preschooler to play with their parents.
Piggy Bank reinforces counting by 5s and 10s. On their turn, each player plays a card from their hand into the middle. The goal is to not be the player to go over the total shown on the current Piggy Bank card. When a player goes over, they lose a coin and a new Piggy Bank is started. When a player runs out of coins, the player with the most coins wins.
Piggy Bank was disappointing. Although the back-and-forth of adding cards to the bank was fun, it got predictable once the stack was near the total, even with the few twists and turns allowed by special cards. Going 5 or more rounds was far too long. It requires the most math skill of the three games, but has the least interesting gameplay. I barely got my kids to play it twice.
The recommended age range for these games is 4-6, which we would say is about right. Older kids can play, but since most will have already mastered these skills, they won’t find much to hold their interest on repeated play. All three games seem to be designed for a grownup to play with a young child rather than for children to play together.
Most importantly, my kids didn’t particularly enjoy these games. My third-grader complained when I suggested we play more. Even my kindergartner only seemed to enjoy the games when he had a large lead. Partly, this is due to their exposure to games that are less luck-based and encourage more interaction between players. But I firmly believe the best family games are the ones that are fun for all the players regardless of age. Unfortunately, the Hoyle Play games just don’t fit the bill. I did enjoy Catch’n Fish, probably because it is based on Go Fish, a game that has stood the test of time.
Even though our family didn’t like these games, they are not all bad. These could be good games for a kindergarten classroom, or for a parent to help their kids practice math skills. Hoyle succeeds in their goal of “fun with room for a lesson”, at least for most children. The games are inexpensive as well (well under $10 each), making for great grab bag gifts if the recipient is the right age. You can pick up Catch’n Fish, Sharks are Wild, and Piggy Bank at Amazon.
The Family Gamers received review copies of Catch’n Fish, Sharks are Wild, and Piggy Bank from Hoyle Play.