SNAP Review – Marshmallow Test

Marshmallow tokens and cards
Marshmallow Test - the delayed gratification trick-taking card game

No, this isn’t about how to play “Chubby Bunny”. It’s not that kind of marshmallow test! We’re talking about the Stanford marshmallow test, an experiment on delayed gratification in children.

This Marshmallow Test is a simple trick-taking game designed by Reiner Knizia, based on his earlier game Voodoo Prince. 2-5 people can play in about 20 minutes, and the box says ages 10+ (although we say younger). It’s published by Gamewright.

We’ll tell you about it in just five minutes. Listen in, or read on below.

five hands of cards, each face down around a central pile of marshmallows
Setup for a five player game

How to Play

Every player gets a hand of twelve cards, and the dealer starts the first trick. They play a card from their hand, then each other player must play a card of the same color (if they have it). The player who played the highest number in that color wins the trick.

Set aside the cards won, then start the next trick.

Five cards: purple 3, 6, 4, and 12; green 7.
The 3 was played first. The 12 wins the trick.

When any player reaches the target number of tricks (three tricks in a four or five player game, up to six tricks in a two-player game), they immediately “go out”. They cannot play in any more tricks this round, and they receive marshmallow points equal to the number of tricks all other players have won so far.

The second-to-last player to “go out” in a round will receive the most points, and the last player remaining gets zero points for the round.

The last player becomes the dealer for the next round, and also gets to choose a trump suit after they look at their cards. If you’re not familiar, a trump suit is a color that is declared to always win a trick, no matter what color started the trick.

Rounds continue until a player has accumulated 20 points, then the game immediately ends.

A marshmallow token next to three piles of face-up cards
Gain marshmallow points when you “go out”.

Impressions

Marshmallow Test is a very basic trick-taking game and a great introduction to the genre. Kids can learn the basics here, including how to lose a trick on purpose. And that’s very important in this game of delayed gratification; you will want to lose some! To get the most points, you want everyone else to have several tricks before you go out.

The Stanford marshmallow experiment was all about delayed gratification, and so is this game. It feels good to win a trick or two, but it feels even better to go out when you can get a handful of marshmallow tokens. But don’t wait too long! The last person standing always gets nothing.

That’s one of the things we don’t like about playing this game as a family – every round, there’s a loser. And it’s usually in a high stakes situation; win the maximum round points or lose it all. It can be hard for kids to practice losing in this way.

On the flip side, if your kids play it too safely, they’ll go out early and not get very many points, waiting around for everyone else to finish a round.

However, the high stakes are the only hard part for our kids. The recommended age is 10+, but there’s no reading in this game, only numbers (1-12). And every card also represents its number with an illustration of marshmallows.

We’ve played with our six year old, and we think that kids who have basic numeracy skills (compare numbers higher/lower) should be able to pick up on the gameplay pretty quickly.

At two players, Marshmallow Test becomes an intense mind game. Who will go out first? And can they do it while getting points?

Does this simple trick-taking game really need the Marshmallow Test theme? Nah. But we appreciate the allusions to it on the cards, and the squishy marshmallow point tokens are fun.

We give Marshmallow Test 3.5 marshmallows out of 5. Find it at your local game store or on Amazon.

A fan of cards with marshmallow tokens stacked in front and behind.

The Family Gamers received a copy of Marshmallow Test from Gamewright for this review.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?

Marshmallow Test
  • Marshmallows
3.5

Summary

Number of Players: 2-5

Age Range: 10+ (we say down to age 6 or so)

Playtime: 20 minutes

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