I always feel a pang of nostalgia when one of my kids want to play the card game Top Trumps. The premise is simple; players compare simple statistics to win cards. The trouble is that once you learn what score is high for each category you can soon dictate a game in a way Kim Jong-un would be proud of.
When the brand diversified into ‘Match’ a self-confessed ‘crazy cube game’ I was intrigued enough to make a purchase. As it is under £15 it wasn’t a significant gamble or investment.
What I now own is the illegitimate lovechild of Connect 4 and Tic Tac Toe with no inherited genes from Top Trumps! If you are hoping for a game like the card game this is not it. Other than the logo featured on the box this game has no connection to that nostalgic card game whatsoever, but it is still worthy of attention.
Top Trumps Match
Top Trumps Match is aimed at children and as such it ties in with many of the kid’s favourites, such as Marvel Avengers, Disney Princesses, Harry Potter, Star Wars and more. Be aware though, regardless of which version you choose they are all exactly the same game just with different branding to the cubes, cards and outer box.
The game board is upright à la Guess Who or Battleships and when starting a game, the cubes are arranged so that no more than two images on one row are identical. Once that is sorted, whoever goes first pushes through their top left cube, this lands on their opponent side for them to study. Once they have decided which of the six different images they want to face them, and where they want to place it, they push it back through another square which in turn knocks another cube out of the board.
Play goes quite quickly back and forth in this way with the cubes being rearranged until one player gains five identical images in a row. Two minor rules; you can never push it back through whence it came, and you can never fill the blank top left corner unless it grants you your five-in-a-row.
Once you have five-in-a-row, you’ve very nearly won, but there is a twist. Before the game started each player draws two blind cards. If at the end of the game one of the loser’s cards match the winner’s five-in-a-row character they snatch victory from the clutches of defeat in a rather fun (and if done right suspenseful) final luck-based revelation.
What it’s Actually Like
I like playing board games with my children, I have three boys varying in age from four to 10 and finding a game that has us equally matched is very difficult. After all it will do them no favours in life if I let them win! Orchard Toys have delivered a number of games such as Rocket Game and Shopping List, but these largely rely on luck to create a level playing field and are aimed at younger children.
Top Trumps Match does deliver a game where anyone can win. Yes, there is an element of luck, but it succeeds through the lack of a complex strategy. Five-in-a-row is a simple premise and there is very little way of predicting how your opponent is doing. You will both probably be trying to complete multiple rows at the same time, the best and only real option in the game. You also don’t know what images are on the cube you are pushing through and if that will help or hinder your opponent leaves you blissfully blind. The game therefore just works as a result.
The boxes say it is aged four plus (with the exception of the Star Wars version for some inexplicable reason which says six plus) and it depends on your child, but I think 5 plus would be more accurate. My four-year-old can play it, but to succeed needs a bit of help, my elder two boys, eight and 10, grasp it and are just as likely to win as me, and not just with the card kicker at the end. It really is simple to grasp and much easier than Connect 4. I do really like the twist at the end, somehow a victory by card kicker is so much sweeter than an honest cube victory, not sure why, perhaps it’s just me!
What the Kids Thought
I’m not the target audience, so with this in mind I asked my boys what they thought…
My over-competitive 10-year-old said that he particularly liked; “that you can lose but still have a chance of winning”. My eight-year-old contemplated the answer a little longer before starting his ramble, the gist of which was that he enjoys his favourite characters on the cubes and cards. He also likes that he can win even when playing me or his older brother.
The game would be good if they were just random symbols on the cubes, but let’s be honest your children are going to love it a lot more if you theme it with their favourite characters. The upright board hinders cheating and it is all of a good quality tough enough to withstand the younger players.
In terms of storage, it folds away into a self-contained box which is easily transportable. If I was to gripe, the cards are a little flimsy and I discovered the storage slot for them at the top of the board a little late and so they got a little bumped sliding around in the case. I’ve played this a lot with my boys and they show signs of wear but not to an unplayable standard. It really is a very minor gripe!
Final Thoughts on Top Trumps Match
I think that creating a game that is entertaining for both young and old is a very difficult task. Harder still if you want them to be on a level playing field and not rely purely on luck. For me, Dobble is that game. However, Ravensburger’s Labyrinth and Ticket to Ride First Journey both tick a lot of boxes too. But to offer diversity I am always on the lookout for more, if you are too, Top Trumps Match is a worthy contender. It is good fun albeit a bit light weight.
It is simple to learn, strangely addictive, suitable for ages five upwards and a game that typically takes around 10 minutes from beginning to end. This means the attention of younger players will not wander. In fact, it usually ends with one side saying “play again?”, what’s more - you won’t actually mind!