Phil Walker-Harding has become known for some amazing family games. Sushi Go still gets a lot of love, especially with my work colleagues who often request 'the Sushi game'. More recently, Barenpark was a big hit and is widely regarded as a favourite 'polyomino' style tile laying game for many people. And most recently, Gizmos, from CMON, is getting plenty of buzz.
Gingerbread House caught our attention for two reasons. Firstly, it is from the pairing of Phil Walker-Harding and Lookout Spiele - the same pairing that brought us Barenpark, along with the same artist, Klemens Franz. Secondly, Fiona thought it might be a game we could classify as Christmas themed, and since her colleagues were very disappointed in the lack of festive games in our collection last year, she’s been very conscious to build up a library in that area!
Gingerbread House Gameplay
Each turn in the game you will lay one gingerbread tile which will cover up two squares of your grid. Each time you place something, you get the rewards of the two covered squares. There are four basic tiles, which simply give you gingerbread in one of four flavours, and then there are also four special tiles;
- Staircases - Grant you a 1x1 staircase tile that can help you fill in gaps in your house.
- Exchanges - Let you swap a gingerbread for one of another colour.
- Cages - Let you invite a new guest over (you can have two at a time).
- Wildcards - Let you do any of the above.
If you manage to cover two of the same type in one placement then you get three of that reward, rather than two!
After placing a tile and getting a reward you can use your gingerbread tokens to fulfill the requirements on one of your guests. When you do so they are trapped and move down below your player board, earning you end game points, in addition to a wild card tile to place in your house. Every time you complete a full 3x3 floor of your house you get to take a bonus card, these sometimes give you an instant bonus, but typically are about end game scoring.
The game of Gingerbread House continues until each player has exhausted their individual pile of tiles at which point the player with the most points wins.
Gingerbread House Board Game - Components (Credit: Lookout Games)
Fiona’s Final Thoughts
Gingerbread House it a neat game of set collection and tile laying. There are some interesting decisions; in particular picking your characters based upon your current board state and resources available to you, and selecting your end game scoring objectives. Figuring out how to lay your tiles to get maximum resources by creating instances with two of the same image next to each other, is also very enjoyable to puzzle out.
There isn’t a lot of player interaction, but taking your favourite scoring objectives or characters early before other people around the table who you suspect are working on similar strategies is very important and might change how you choose to build up your house.
There are some drawbacks in the game though. Visually, the components look great, but the very nature of the game means you’re stacking them, so you’re not able to watch the fruits of your labour like you might in other tile-laying games like Carcassonne. You are also dealt a random set of 15 tiles each to work with throughout the game and the distribution of symbols on these tiles may cause you to feel like the game is unfair, even though it actually seems to be pretty well balanced from the games we’ve played.
Gingerbread House is a very accessible game, and even has a simplified scoring system for entry level players. The art is charming and the theme can be very fun if you get into it - we have definitely been saying that scoring characters is known as 'eating'. It has more of a fairy tale or Halloween theme than the Christmas theme I was originally hoping for, but it's definitely a nice theme for families and I game that I can see working really nicely for parents and kids.
Amy’s Final Thoughts
The tile laying in Gingerbread House is simple and easy to pick up, however as everyone has their own random pool of tiles it can feel a little unfair. If you happen to have a deck that's full of exchange or staircase tiles then you are naturally going to get less gingerbread with which to score points. Conversely, if you don't get any cage or staircase tiles in your deck then you can be forced to spend all your wildcards just to stay in the game. It should be noted that while this doesn't feel great as you play, the game is balanced well enough that you should still have a fair chance of victory.
Gingerbread House is a 30-45 minute game that fits well into the family gaming category. The gameplay is enjoyable, but simple, which probably leaves it in place as a game for parents and kids. The basic and advanced scoring cards give you the opportunity to increase or decrease complexity depending on the age and experience of your players.
Gingerbread House has a very fun theme and a great look to it and we’d definitely recommend it to add something a bit different to family game night.
Fiona and Amy can also be found at the Game Shelf, with weekly reviews from a couple’s perspective