LITTLE THUMBS : HABA Heaven!

Originally published on the Daily Worker Placement on November 4th, 2020.

Several weeks back, Big Bean, Little Bean, and Papa Big Thumbs (that’s me!) were out at a thrift shop hunting for Halloween costume accents. Passing by the toy section of the shop, something incredible caught my eye … an iconic yellow box! My heart started beating a bit faster, and I encouraged my girls to walk with a bit more purpose in the direction of that brightly coloured box.

Could it be???

YES! We found a HABA game in the thrifty wilderness! How could anyone abandon a copy of MONZA?! I held our treasure tightly to my chest, as the Bean Squad were pulling me towards other shiny treasures in the store.

Later that same week, another box of treasures was waiting for us … three new HABA games for us to explore as a family. What a heavenly day to be a HABA hounddog! 

Perhaps we’ll spend some time celebrating the classic brilliance of Monza in a future article. Today, however, we’re here to explore three new HABA releases – In a Flash FirefightersNibble Munch Crunch, and Color It!

Just now, I asked Big Bean which game we should write about first for this piece, and she has declared that it be…

NIBBLE MUNCH CRUNCH

Part of the “My Very First Games” series, Nibble Munch Crunch is all about helping cute baby animals find their favourite snack. The bunny would prefer a carrot, the puppy wants its bone, kitty wants fish, turtle craves grass, and mousey wants some yummy cheese!

One of the best parts of this particular HABA line is how the games lend themselves to free play, and in the case of Nibble Munch Crunch, the large wooden snack pieces primarily exist for this purpose. We recently had our not-quite-2-year-old friend over for a pancake party, and it was a perfect opportunity to introduce this game to them. Watching our little friend handle those wooden pieces, briefly ponder snacking on them herself, and then match them to the appropriate cardboard tile was a joy. 

Nibble Munch Crunch also held the attention of Little Bean at 3 years old, but doesn’t offer quite enough to hold 5-year-old Big Bean’s attention. One game variant, called “Who Eats What?” did keep all the little ones engaged for a handful of plays. In this particular case, the game becomes an elementary memory game, with all cardboard tiles turned face down. The backs of the tiles are coloured differently, and players take turns flipping over one tile (animal or snack), and then trying to find where their match is hiding. In this case, the big wooden pieces can be claimed as trophies when a successful match is made!

Of course, those chunky wooden snacks should also be stacked as high as everyone can manage, because it’s a HABA game, and that’s simply what must be done.

VERDICT:
Two Very Little Thumbs Up!


COLOUR IT!

Roll and Write games continue to be a rockingly successful slice of the tabletop gaming pizza, and HABA has found a way into the kitchen with a game that replaces the writing with colouring – the appropriately named Color It! Four uniquely illustrated sheet variations are included in the box, and in each game players start with the same sheet. Turns are spent rolling the game’s four six-sided dice – two are standard cubes with numbered pips, and the other two offer five colours along with a wild sparkly star. A combination of colour and number are selected, which are then used to fill one segment of the sheet. Through a bit of planning and a lot of luck, one player will manage to pull ahead at the end, as others find themselves unable to colour a critical patch, and the one who fully colours their sheet first is the winner!

The mere act of colouring can be a quiet and calming activity, and putting that activity into a game makes for a quiet and calming experience, even for children. Watching that soft, focused energy settle over a table of young players is just plain lovely, with or without adults involved. Play can be turn-based, which is recommended for younger children, or simultaneous, where one player rolls and everyone chooses an option from that one set of results. In the case of the latter, you may need to supplement the components with colouring pencils from your home supply, as only two pencils in each colour are included in the game.

As I wrote in my LittleBigThumbs.com article on this game, I could see this concept being expanded into an adult colouring experience, which I imagine has the potential to be rather successful. In its current form, however, this is one that children are going to enjoy but is likely to stay on the shelf once they’re in bed for the night.

VERDICT: Two Little Thumbs Up!


IN A FLASH FIREFIGHTERS

Oh noes! Farmer Rudi’s hay bales are on fire! Fortunately, a team of 2 to 4 firefighters are on the scene, and should have things under control … if only they can untangle their hoses. In a Flash Firefighters is a tile laying speed game, which seems to draw some inspiration from parts of Galaxy Trucker of all places.

Each player is given a cardboard frame, at the center of which is a single recessed column. The assortment of 60 hose tiles are spread onto the table, and using one hand, players will sort through them, looking for pieces of hose that will fill their column and connect to each hose tile to the one previously placed. Once one player’s hose fills the column, they reach for the nozzle to splash the fire with water, claiming victory for that round while proclaiming “WATER ON!” The first player to win three rounds and are celebrated as the best firefighter around … until the next game starts, of course.

What I like most about this Firefighter game is how the game’s difficulty can be ramped up or down. Each player’s starting hydrant can be placed in one of seven locations, meaning that an older, experienced player might have to find upwards of six more tiles than a younger, inexperienced opponent. Speed games can sometimes be an unpleasant, stressful experience for younger children, and this is a great way to ease the potential for a negative experience. 

While my children weren’t smitten with this game, the kids in our After School Club were instantly addicted. After most games of In a Flash Firefighters, they would immediately reset the game and start again, and of the many games available in our children’s game collection, this has been requested more than almost any other. I’m fully aware that most families don’t spend as much time gaming as we do, so it’s important to keep games around that inspire that sparkle, and in that regard, this one is definitely a keeper.

One minor gripe about the production of this game is with the hydrant tiles that overlap that recessed column previously mentioned. Due to the overlap, it’s easy for hose tiles to slip under that tile and out of sight, possibly resulting in a hose that looks to be connected incorrectly. While this can be avoided with careful tile management, that shouldn’t be a consideration in a game of quick action. It’s not enough of an issue to avoid a purchase, but I do hope that HABA addresses it in future printings.

Overall, a very fun game that will likely keep young players coming back to the table over and over again!

VERDICT: Two Little Thumbs Up!


FINAL THOUGHTS

A solid argument can be made for HABA being the absolute best publisher of children’s games. Legendary titles such as MonzaAnimal Upon Animal, and Orchard are incredible games that capture imaginations and encourage learning through play. Each of these newer games will shine with the proper audience – Nibble Munch Crunch for younger children, In a Flash Firefighters for post-preschool kids, and Color It for any age at all. If these shiny yellow boxes sound like a good fit for your growing gamers, we’re happy to recommend bringing them to your table!


Media copies of In a Flash Firefighters, Color It, and Nibble Munch Crunch were provided by HABA to make this article possible.

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