Knuckles Helps Bugs Get Home…
Okay, so sadly Echidna Shuffle doesn’t really feature the trademarked knuckles or Bugs bunny, I mean they are from two different franchises after all. However, it does feature 12 of the most adorable little echidna figures you’ll ever meet in a board game and 6 different types of bugs ready to hitch a ride home. The quality of the components in this game just blew me away, and at that price tag I honestly just don’t know how they’re making a profit! For kids these playing pieces are such joy to touch and play with and for adults they are just so darn cute you’ll want to buy the game just to display the pieces!
Echidna Shuffle is a fun family game brought to you by Wattsalpoag Games which offers pure joy and/or sheer frustration for 2 to 6 players. Despite first appearances of the somewhat clunky rules/how to play booklet, it has really simple gameplay being easy to learn and you can teach it in under 5 minutes. Younger children will grasp the rules quickly and can intuitively discover how to win without much adult prompting.
The aim of the game is to move echidnas around the board following the direction of the arrows, picking up bugs and getting them safely home to their tree stumps. To win the game be the first player to get your 3 bugs home safely. Sounds simple? Because it is! So where’s the fun? This game can literally have you going round and round in circles trying to get your bug to its tree stump. Each turn, you move echidnas depending on your die roll. And that can be any echidna. That’s right, just like how they sort of waddle along in nature, you’re just ‘shuffling’ them along the game board. Meaning you can really prevent other players from getting their bugs home to their tree stumps by shuffling them off in another direction.
In nature echidnas are actually introverted animals, but between July and August the male echidnas all line up to follow a female around. Whilst the mating ritual element has been taken out of this game, for hopefully obvious reasons, within gameplay you can cause total gridlock lining echidnas up in this way. Effectively causing you to waste turns just moving the other echidnas out of the way. Speaking of mating… did you know that the male echidnas special male part 4 headed! Well you do now!
To play Echidna Shuffle first, choose your board! The main side depicts a forest floor where the cutesy little echidnas move from leaf to leaf following the direction of the arrows. BUT if you get bored of the board, see what I did there, it’s double sided so you can flip it over and play on within an icy snowy environment where your echidna moves along little snowballs with different movements to keep things interesting. And true fact, echidnas live in all sorts of environments including snow covered mountains so both environments… technically factually accurate!
Once you have chosen which side of the board you want to play, place 12 echidnas at random. Then choose a colour to play. There are 6 bugs representing the 6 different colours. You have yellow bumblebees (I mean they look like they could be flies but I’m going with bees because who doesn’t love a bumble!); purple beetles; blue ants; green grasshoppers; orange flutterbys (or butterflies if you want to suck
the joy out of my life) and red ladybugs (yes, yes ladybirds). You can then place your bug collection plate anywhere on the board. Your tree stumps however, get passed to the player to your left for them to place for you. And this is where you can make gameplay easier or more difficult depending on whether you’re playing with other adults or smaller children.
Once your game is set up you simple roll one orange die which is numbered 2 to 7 with cute little echidna paw prints to move. To keep things fair there is a number ruler so when you roll your die you place your little bug marker on the number you rolled and on your next turn you simply move it down the marker and take the number of turns indicated. This means if you feel like you’re playing with a weighted die that is always rolling a 2 or a 3 for you ever other turn you get to move 7 or 6 spaces. This is a lovely rule that keeps gameplay much fairer than simply being purely luck driven on the roll of the die.
Now you have your number of moves simply move echidnas around the board. First, trying to reach your bug plate to pick up a bug and secondly, getting your bug to its tree stump to deliver it safely home. Yes, you can move any echidna even if it has an opponents bug on it! No, you cannot move through another echidna so if it’s in your way you will have to use some of your moves to move it out of the way. So come on, come on, do the echidna shuffle with me.
I simply had to write a paragraph to mention the components because as mentioned right up there in the very first paragraph they really blew me away. I don’t think I’ve ever seen components this good quality in a family board game within this price range, ever! I mean sure the, don’t hate me, Monopoly playing pieces are usually pretty top notch quality but they’re small and a minor component. Every single component within this game is such good quality.
The 12 echidnas could essentially be 12 toys you bought for your children. They’re palm sized and just feel so lovely to hold. The bugs are really good quality plastic and sit on top of the echidnas and tree stumps with ease. Even the die is cute with its little paw prints for dots. And everything fits just perfectly in the gametray. Seriously, this could be the most rubbish game in the world and I’d still want it for these components. Fortunately, it’s not rubbish, although I’m seriously contemplating displaying the echidnas somewhere among my game shelves.
A couple of things to bear in mind. This game can be brutal. If you are playing with particularly competitive players gameplay can last much longer because you may constantly be trying to screw each other over moving echidnas on a longer path and constantly taking them out of the route of victory. This is something to bear in mind because it can get VERY frustrating. Kids are kids and lets face it, there’s nothing more fun to a kid than ganging up on someone, usually the parent or in my case the teacher. This can also add to some frustrating gameplay for the individual being ganged up on.
There are some suggested variations you can play in the rule book so you can make this game even more replayable if you find you are getting a little tired of just shuffling echidnas along.
And finally… So my only real problem with this game is… one of realism! Those ants are not living long enough to be taken safely home to their tree stump. I mean they are literally the echidnas main food source. Echidnas are actually often referred to as spiny anteaters… I mean, come on! The clue is in the name. And the ants are blue! Which is my favourite colour for a playing piece in a game. So I’m forced to play the echidnas food source or change my colour. I’m jinxed before I even pick up the die! And that my friends is the only reason my husband managed to beat me!