Friday, April 29, 2011

Crazy Game Review - Bugs & Co

If you're going to play games with kids, they should be educational games. Everyone knows that. No, the kids might not have as much fun as if you just played a fun game, but it's really important that your children learn things. Way more important than having fun.

But if you can make them have fun and fool them into learning, that's the best of both worlds. That's why Bruno Faidutti and some other people made Bugs & Co. They wanted kids to learn that germs are cute and entertaining, so they made a really fun game that will trick your kids into developing a lifelong love of microscopic antibodies.

Because this is an educational game for kids (known as 'edutainment,' a word invented by a soulless corporate marketing executive to sound smart in a meeting), Bugs & Co is easy to set up and play. Just flip over the germ discs and shuffle them up. Take out a few to confuse and frustrate everyone, then in a crazy smorgasborg of action, everyone dives in at the same time and starts flipping up the discs to see if they can find matching sperms. You can only flip one at a time, and if you decide to keep the herpes amoeba you drew, you hide it in your hand and keep going. Otherwise, you just put it back, face down, and try to remember what it was.

There's an element of Bugs & Co that resembles one of those Memory games that Sunday School teachers use to trick kids into learning about Moses and his apostles. Only instead of a handful of cards laid out in a grid, you have to remember where you put your bug in the gigantic free-for-all chaos of the middle of the table. And to screw up your memory entirely and make your head hurt, someone else can take the tiles you've carefully memorized and move them somewhere else. This is likely to make your job of memorizing things a great deal more difficult, and may result in an aneurism. Only you won't notice that your brain just threw a clot and killed you, because you'll be too busy flipping discs and looking for the little booger with claws and two wieners (I'm pretty sure he's crabs).

When you finally decide that you've searched through enough e-coli and dysentery germs, you can pick up a trophy. When the last trophy is snagged, everyone else has to stop searching. Then you see if you made matching sets. If you do, you get points. If you did not, you lose points. And if you're me, and you totally suck at Bugs & Co, you will then add up your gains and losses and discover that your total is negative four, and your adolescent child has scored fifteen, making you look like a senile coot with bladder control issues.

This game happens really fast. If you hate it when one of your group gets up to go take a piss right when it's that guy's turn, and then he can't find the toilet paper or he clogs the crapper and you have to wait ten or fifteen minutes, this is the right game for you. Because by the time that guy gets back from washing his hands (unless he doesn't wash his hands, in which case you have another opportunity to teach your kids about germs), you could play a whole game, set it up, and play it again. We played several times, and our longest game lasted six minutes. I don't know why we timed it.

Yet for being an insanely fast game that allows no time for contemplation or organizing your thoughts, Bugs & Co will task your brain. You need to actually have some sort of strategy going into the game, but you have to also be able to shift strategies on the fly when the one thing isn't working. That, or you just grab willy-nilly without thinking. I'm pretty sure that's what my wife did when she trounced me. Maybe I'm just overthinking it.

In all seriousness, Bugs & Co is a fun game, it's not educational, and you can play it with grown-ups without having any kids at the table. It does have squiggly little germs which may or may not be mucus, but they're cute and different enough that you can remember if you're already holding the tapeworm or if you still need to find the third gonorrhea. Plus you can seriously knock out a whole game in under ten minutes. The only problem is, as soon as you finish, someone at the table is going to say, 'let's play again!' and you're going to wind up sinking forty-five minutes into a game that ends after five. It's not all bad, though - you'll have fun every time.


2-8 players

Super easy to play
Crazy fast
Cute germs
Energetic and chaotic and fun

Bet you can't play just once

In case I haven't said this recently enough, the best way to support Drake's Flames is to just show up and read. The second best way is to buy your games from Noble Knight Games, because they send me review copies of games I could not otherwise score, which lets me review the games you ask me to review. So if you're going to get Bugs & Co (and you probably should, it's fun), go here to get it:


Jean-Christophe Gareau said...

I'll take a look at this game to play with my nephew!

bruno faidutti said...

Great to see a review of one of my games on my favorite game review site. You should try Isla Dorada one of these days, I think that's the kind of stuff you might like.
And, by the way, the "some other people", Tom & Yako, are the authors of Jungle Speed, another nice crazy and probably educational game