Toy Fair 2019—HABA

A publisher I often recommend for games with young children, HABA’s new offerings this year at New York Toy Fair did not disappoint, and even included one with some interesting strategic choices to challenge adults.

Luxantis ($50, spring) is a labyrinth puzzle with a lighted board, memory element, and tower defense section. Players roll the die and press the matching button to light up spaces on the board. Blue spaces are safe. Red spaces send pieces back to the start. Landing on the right spaces allows players to collect artifact used to defeat monsters as they move up another board attacking the castle.

Snail Sprint ($29, now) is a racing game, where players share the racing snails, scoring points (3 points for first place, 2 points for second place, 1 point for third place) only for the snails shown on their card. Each turn, a player rolls two dice and picks a snail color from one die and destination shape from the other. If a snail lands on top of another snail, the one underneath is trapped. Appropriate for snails climbing trees, though, the path of movement also includes the outer edges of the game box—the box is a tin and the snail pieces have magnets.

Honga ($50, March) is a strategic game of survival. The goal is to collect enough food and water, while keeping the tiger from stealing them. When placing the game’s round cards, players have a choice of orienting the printed hand symbols either toward the resources they need to collect or toward the tiger to keep it at bay.

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Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.When I think of HABA games, I instantly think of cute, fun games in yellow boxes for preschoolers and the early school age set. So that’s why I was surprised when I saw Picassimo at the New York Toy Fair earlier this year. It’s a game for eight and up, fun for family members of all ages, and — what really threw me — the yellow HABA box branding was completely absent from the box. Let’s dig in.

The game itself is a variation on the “charades, but drawn” genre of gaming popularized by Hasbro’s Pictionary (1985) and re-implemented in several other party board games. Here, the big thing is the board you’re drawing on is broken into six tiles. Finish your drawing and then you swap two tiles, then two more, mixing up your clean, simple illustration and it goes from this

to this

Everyone draws, everyone rearranges the same tiles, and one by one the players try to determine what was drawn. Get ’em right? Drawer and guesser gets three points. Need to return some of the tiles to the original spaces? Fewer points. Once seven rounds are over, high score wins!

I ran the game with two ten-year olds, who both loved the game. “I want this game!” exclaimed my daughter’s friend. Playing with the wife and our daughter, we all had a hilarious time.

The only caveat I had is even though the game says it’s for ages eight and up, and there are over 900 things to illustrate, some of the topic cards featured things that weren’t familiar to the younger crowd. I know what “currywurst” is — mainly because I lived in Germany for a few years — but my 10 year old? Luckily, each card has six terms ready to draw, so this wasn’t much of a problem.

That last bit probably came about because HABA usually publishes language-independent games and this one is All Words. Published in six languages, they use a clever way to not have to do localized versions: each card is double-sided with colored backgrounds on each line. These are placed next to a language card: a flag with three similarly-colored arrows. English-speaking players? The green arrows on the English card lines up with the green English terms, so you know you’ll be looking at the line that says “bathtub” and not the ones that say “Badewanne” or “Baignoire”. (Oddly, the English line is the only one of six languages — German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Dutch are the others — that doesn’t capitalize the first letter of the word.) We found it very easy to find which word we’re to draw.

Drawing is quick, using dry-erase markers on the tiles, and rearranging the tiles to reveal that what you thought was an obvious drawing now looks crazy is fun. You’ll have to be a bit careful when swapping tiles to avoid accidentally brushing the drawing, but the tiles and drawing surfaces are designed to help moving the pieces around. Plus you’re playing among friends and family, right? Let people touch up anything they might have wiped.

Picassimo — did I mention it was fun? — was well-received by players of multiple ages. It plays from 3 to 6 players in about a half hour. The game retails for $44.99. Find out more about Picassimo at

A copy of Picassimo was provided by HABA USA free for review.

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Toy Fair 2017—HABA USA

HABA USA’s catalog is literally an inch thick. Each year the company comes out with several new products releasing around the time of Toy Fair, six of these in “mid-spring” and one of these — an upgrade to a classic HABA game that’s fun for all ages — in the fall.

We start off with Paul and the Moon ($35), a cooperative memory game for 3-8 year olds. Paul moves around a pond, skipping from stone to stone. When he stops, the player tries to match the symbol on his stone with one on a face-down star. A match? We add a fairy to the ever-growing ladder to the moon. If everyone can complete the ladder, the players win!

Three smaller box games will also be available this spring: Flower Fairy Dominoes, Cat & Co. Meow Meow, and Princess Mina: Junior Rummy (all $8). The Junior Rummy game is a lightly-themed rummy deck with princesses, stars, and numbers. Meow Meow is similar to UNO, with cute animals and colored backgrounds dictating the card following play. Flower Fairy Dominoes? A simple domino-card game with a flower garden theme.

The Princess Mina Jewel Matching Game ($12) is another memory game with jeweled artwork, but when a player matches the gemstones, they get to thread the tiles onto a necklace which can be worn after the game has ended.

Also available in mid-spring is Lumina, the Search for Lightning Bugs ($20). Moving around an island, this youth-oriented push-your-luck game where you play cards illustrating your next move. Move to a location with a lightning bug? Catch it — if it’s the fifth one in your collection, you win.

Lastly, this fall will see Rhino Hero Super Battle ($30) hitting North America. Think Rhino Hero, but larger: more heroes, more buildings, more… fighting? Yes, there are spider monkeys on the loose and other heroes to bonk: Giraffe Boy, Big E., and Batguin.

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Second Look—Hanna Honeybee

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.Hanna Honeybee is part of HABA’s My Very First Games line, a line aimed at kids 2+ years old. Having a 2-year-old in the house,  I jumped at the opportunity to give the game a try. The game is very simple, with colorful components and a great little gimmick that had my little guy squealing with delight.

Let’s start with that. Hanna Honeybee’s box is also an important part of the game. There’s a cardboard insert that fits into the box with a slot on the top and a ramp on the bottom. In each game flower tiles are inserted in the top slot and flipped over to their honey side before being sent out the bottom. Every time we play my son exclaims “Honey!” whenever a tile comes sliding out. Laughter follows for a while and we can continue play.

There’s two ways to play Hanna Honeybee. The first involves rolling a die and moving the wooden Hanna token over to a flower of that color. Then the tile is inserted into the box and the honey that comes out is placed in the honey pot. Players work together to fill the honey pot with 6 honey tiles. Be careful, though! If you roll a wilted flower then one of the flowers is removed from the game. The goal here is color recognition, taking turns, and following mutli-step directions.

302199_4c_f_mes_hanni_honigbiene_usa_01The second way to play adds a little memory into the game. All the flower tiles are flipped to the honey side, and the players must try and find the color flower that they rolled. Didn’t find the right color? That’s OK! You can take another turn if you can successfully name the color of the flower you did turn over. Once you find the right color Hanna can take the flower, turn it into honey, and place it in the honey pot. Once again, 6 honey tiles in the honey pot wins the game, and a wilted flower roll removes a tile.

Like I said before, the games are very simple. However, they’re great for a 2-year-old. My toddler asks to play all the time, and always multiple times in a row. He loves moving Hanna to the flowers, and loves placing them in the hive to be flipped even more.

You can snag Hanna Honeybee for $27.99 from HABA’s site. I highly recommend you do if you’ve got children in the age range. I know we’re happy with the game, and will be gifting copies to family members this holiday season.

A copy of Hanna Honeybee was provided free for review by HABA.


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Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.Today I’ve got a trio of HABA games to go over: Mix and Match Robbers, Tambuzi, and Space Planets. My thoughts on the three vary a good amount, but overall my kids really enjoyed all three. Myself? We’ll get to that.

First off if Mix and Match Robbers, a game of speed matching. Each round a new head, torso, and set of legs are flipped over from 3 separate decks. These three cards will show you the robber that needs to be caught. The players then search all the face up characters and try to find the one that matches the revealed robber. The player who finds it first get that card as part of their victory pool. The game ends when there’s no more combination cards left, or no more matching character cards in the pool. The player with the most robbers wins the game.
300633_4c_f_mix_max_raeuber_englisch_01It’s light, fun, and I was even able to play this one with my 2-year-old son (though he’s a bit slower than the older kids). It’s fast, and only costs $7.49. Will it have much staying power in my household? I’m guessing the kids may take it out now and then over the summer, but will probably tire of it quickly. It’s a great game for me to take out and play alone with my youngest, so I can see it getting more play that way. I’d recommend this up to age 6, max.

Next up is Tambuzi, a larger game with an electronic component that plays sounds, dictates how players move, and signals a round’s end. We we really excited to play this one, but it kinda fell flat for me. Each player has two tokens that they’ll move around the board while trying to get the animals to shelter, or at least not outside the board when lightning strikes. The electronic component has a button that players press to dictate their movement, or allow them to enter a hut if they’re next to one. After a while it’ll also emit a crack of thunder. Whichever player is off the board (the player currently moving) will have that piece removed from the game. Play continues until only 3 animals are left on the board, and then points are added up.

7180_tambuziThe trick here is that you need to play really fast. When you hit the button you get a movement number between one and three. You can also get a hut. When you move, you move outside the board in a clockwise motion. If you land next to a space with an animal on a door mat you swap with that animal and that player then hits the button. If the other animal is already in a hut, you hit the button and move again. If you happen to be next to a hut and get the hut icon, you move inside, swapping with the animal already in there if there is one. If you’re on a blank space, you go again. The goal is to do as much as you can, as fast as you can, so another player gets caught outside when lightning strikes.

You keep playing, with the highest scoring player getting a water token, until all the water tokens are gone. The player with the most tokens at the end winds. To tell you the truth, the game feels way too long playing that way, so my kids and I basically just played until the end of one round, and the person with the highest score won. My 6-year-old son and 10-year-old son enjoy the game to a point, but usually stop after a couple of times. I really didn’t like this one, as it’s purely luck, with nothing really happening except hitting the button as fast as you can. Basically musical chairs with a savanna theme. At $35.99, personally I’d skip it. It’s probably the first HABA game I’ve ever suggested to skip.

301773_4c_f_space_planets_05Last, but most certainly not least, is Space Planets. This one really hit all the right buttons for me, my 6-year-old son, 9-year-old daughter, and 10-year-old son. It’s a dexterity game where you’re trying to roll a die onto a card in a 3×3 grid. If you’ve got enough fuel you can snag the card, and maybe even get a bonus if there’s one listed on the card. Can’t buy it? That’s OK, you can use the roll to refuel.

Each card is worth a certain amount of points, and like I said earlier, some let you take special actions. Once one player has taken five tiles each player takes one more turn and the game is over. The player with the highest points wins. Plants are worth what they say, and any extra fuel you have left over can be converted to 2-1 for points, too. It’s really quick to set up, simple to learn, and a whole lot of fun.

Space Planets may be one of my new favorite HABA games, and I can see this one coming out for play time and time again in our house. At $11.99, this one is a no-brainer to purchase if you’ve got kids in the house. If you were to get only one of the three games I’ve covered here, this would be the one to get.

Anyway, there you have it. I always love getting the chance to play HABA games because you generally can’t go wrong. While Tambuzi wasn’t my cup of tea, my kids did enjoy it. Mix and Match Robbers provides a good amount of play for the price, and Space Planets is a gem.

Copies of Mix and Match Robbers, Tambuzi, and Space Planets were provided free for review by HABA.

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Brandon the Brave Lands in the U.S.

Brandon the BraveA nominee for last year’s Kinderspiel des Jahres (Children’s Game of the Year), Brandon the Brave from HABA has made to U.S. shores. Playing the game involves placing tiles to explore the land and expand the board, as well as filling-in task tokens (representing such missions as rescuing the princess or subduing a giant) when certain tiles are played adjacent. The first player to complete four tasks is the winner.

Brandon the Brave is rated for children ages 5 and up and retails for $15.

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Second Look—Taxi Wildlife

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.Another great game in a yellow box.

Of course I almost didn’t realize it. I almost came here to write a negative review of the game. That initial thought came from a late night game session with my five-year-old while we were packing before moving to a new house. It was late, we were both tired, and it turns out we played the game very wrong.

Fast forward a bit. We’re in the new house, and now my other 2 older kids and the five-year-old want to play. I grumble, but accept. I re-read the rules. Oh man. I played this wrong the last time! We then managed to have a very enjoyable 15-20 minutes playing a 4-player game.

8802386280478In Taxi Wildlife you’re trying to get the most route cards and animals. You do this by drawing duel cards and trying to snatch an animal blindly out of a bag with one hand. The animal needs to match one of the 3 route cards currently on the table. Match the animal, get the card. Of course the card also need to match on of the ends of your existing route, or it can’t be played. Also, if the actual animal is on the card (not just the picture on the sign) then you get to take it instead of putting it back in the bag. This further complicates things for other players since there’s only 2 of each animal in each bag.

It’s fast paced, super easy, and a lot of fun to go digging around the bags for animals. You play through the duel deck 4 times, then count up each players’ route cards and animals to determine the winner.

Overall this is a big thumbs up, and can be played with the whole family. It actually may be my new favorite HABA game.

A copy of Taxi Wildlife was provided free for review by HABA.

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Second Look—Crash Cup Karambolage

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.Take PitchCar, remove the track, and aim it at a younger audience with several game play variations and you’ve got Crash Cup Karambolage. That’s pretty much the best way to describe HABA‘s dexterity game. I recieved the game shortly after taking a quick look at it during Toy Fair this year. The game comes with several wooden discs that are used as the cars, score pegs, a block for “drifting”, several borders and connectors, and a small string with two wooden balls on the end.

I set this one up with my 5-year-old to give it a whirl, and we ended up causing such a ruckus that we woke the baby while he was napping.


The basic mechanic of Crash Cup Karambolage is flicking cars around. You don’t do this with your finger, however, but by using the included rope in the game. Place the rope around the car disc and pull it taut to propel the disc across the table. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and I kept flinging the cars several feet off the table. There’s also a “drift block” you can use to bounce your cars around other objects on the play surface.

cckThere are several ways to play, including a straight-up race and a demolition derby. Each are quick to setup and play, and lend themselves to replayability by varying the setup of the borders.

There’s also the fact that it’s just good fun, and you’ll want to play over and over.

Now I’m a big fan of games such as Pitchcar and Bisikle, but sometimes it’s just a bit too much for my little guy to play. Either he’s too rough with the pieces or just gets too frustrated with flicking the pieces with his fingers. Crash Cup Karambolage give him the opportunity to play something similar and more age-appropriate for him. Don’t get me wrong, my older kids like this one too, but he’s the most fond of it because the rope and open setup level the playing field a bit for him. In my book, that’s a big win.

A copy of Crash Cup Karambolage was provided free for review by HABA.

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Toy Fair 2015—HABA


HABA always has some great games for the family, and they’re usually pretty stocked with new releases. This year was no different.Monster Laundry

Monster Laundry – $19.99 – Ages 7+

Monster Laundry is an odd-monster-out in a world of HABA yellow boxed games. The game comes in a sturdy tin, in which you’ll find a large elastic cord, clothespins, and monsters. The cord wraps around all the players and they have to scramble to get all their monsters attached to the cord. All monsters with one pattern must be clipped to the cord segment to your left, the other to the one on your right. Once they’re on they need to be taken off. There’s several different ways to play. You can bet your bottom I made the PR rep play this one with me right then and there. I’m sure we looked quite amazing scrambling to clip monsters to a cord that was wrapped around ourselves. Available in the Spring.

Princess Magic Fairy

Princess Magic Fairy – $12.99 – Ages 4+

A cooperative game, Princess Magic Fairy has players drawing symbols in the air or on players’ backs with a magic wand. If the symbol is guessed, its card can be added to the Fairy Circle. Get it wrong and the goblins get it. Once eight cards are placed in the Fairy Circle the game is won. This one was really cute, and looked super portable. The best part is the 4+ age range, so even little ones can get in on the magic action. Available now.

Crash Cup Karambolage

Crash Cup Karambolage – $27.99 – Ages 6+

Crash Cup Karambolage was one of the cooler games I saw at Toy Fair this year. A dexterity game, and modular, players have to flick their wooden discs around the course by using a string provided with the game. Pull the string taught to propel your disc and win the game. Lots of chunky wooden pieces. Enough to fill a good sized table. The pic to the right only shows a fraction of what’s available in the box. Available now.

Taxi Wildlife - Ghost BlasterGhost Blaster – $14.99 – Ages 5+

Matching tile games are a dime a dozen these days, but Ghost Blaster adds a bit more excitement to the usual fare. Match tiles and blast ghosts. Be careful as ghosts can lock you away, then you’ll have to wait for another player to save you. There’s also a clock that counts down to the witching hour, so you need to be quick! Available this Spring.

Taxi Wildlife – $19.94 – Ages 5+

A really cool little game where you’re trying to pick up the most animals with your truck and create the longest route possible. A modular board keeps things exciting. Available now.

My Very First GamesMy Very First Game Series – $15-$35 – Ages 2+

Not all the games in this series are new, but it’s the first time I’ve ever noticed them. These games are meant for tiny hands, and are super simple to play. They help develop the very most basic skills of game playing, along with fine motor control and other skills. All packaged with cute themes, each game focuses on different things for baby to learn. With a one-year-old in the house, I’ll be picking up a few of these soon to get the little man started.

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Toy Fair 2014—Haba

Toy-Fair-2014-logo-150wideWhen it comes to children’s games, one of my favorite publishers is Haba. Unlike most game companies that may start at games for six year olds or eight and up, the Germany-based company’s game products start as young as two, yet they have a deep line of games to appeal to older children and adults playing with kids. All games will be available in English or French for the North American market. Everything listed below is either currently available or will be available before summer 2014.

First up, Fire Dragon: roll dice, move your dragons around the board and drop rubies into the volcano. Eventually the volcano “erupts”: a player lifts the tin top off the volcano center piece off, spilling gems across the board. Your dragon flies around the countryside swooping up gems as she goes. Fire Dragon is rated 5+ and will retail for $40.

Possibly my favorite game from Haba this year is Orinoco Gold. You’ll need a lot of table space for this one — the board is nearly 40 inches long! Your team of explorers races across logs that are being swept downriver to grab gold on the far bank and return to their camp. It is a simple dice game that has players deciding who to move and which logs to send downstream and help/hinder their opponents. Orinoco Gold is rated for 7+ and retails for $36.

But what if you like volcanoes and gold? You might want to pick up Plucky Pilots, a game that “is played a lot” at the Haba offices. The game is a press-your-luck dice rolling game, with a pilot flying towards a volcanic island where shipwrecked gold coins litter the shoreline! Roll rectangular dice to show which pathways your pilot can fly. Early in the game, you have lots of choices, but as you get closer to the final island, there are fewer routes to take. Stop and bank your gold or continue and possibly lose everything? This game is for 6 and up, and retails for $21.

Sherlock Kids is an observation and memory game, with players trying to catch an art thief. Contained in a large, thematic envelope, there are twenty complex paintings. After all players look at the painting (printed on a durable fabric about the size of an A3 sheet of paper), one player covers it and asks a question about it: “How many balloons were there in the upper-left corner?” Using cardboard discs, the others dial in their answers. Those that are right get closer to catching the thief. Like many Haba large box boardgames, the box becomes part of the game board. Sherlock Kids is rated for 5+ will retail for $28. This game is currently in stock.

For the younger crowd, Haba debuted several games in the My Very First Games line, all suitable for two year olds and higher. Teddy’s Colors and Shapes ($15) is a shape recognition and matching game. Counting Fun ($29) is a counting game with double-sided farm animal tiles and big, clunky wooden shamrocks. One, Two Hoparoo! ($29) is a simple roll and move game with frogs hopping towards a pond. All of these games come with big wooden dice and alternative levels of play to grow with your child’s counting abilities.

Also debuting in the My Very First Games line is Lilli’s Favorite Clothes, one of the first games that isn’t in the familiar Haba yellow box packaging. Lilli’s Favorite Clothes (and forthcoming Unicorn in the Clouds, to be released in the fall) will be in pink packaging, which has worked well for marketing in Europe. Lilli’s Favorite Clothes has players creating outfits for Lilli and her friends by drawing tiles in a memory game and placing them on the correct friend. Like the other games in the line, this can be staged up for slightly older children: players can roll dice which dictate which clothing items must be found next. This game will retail for $21.

Stepping away from the yellow box packaging is Who’s Who at the Zoo? This is the first game packaged in the Terra Kids branding, Haba’s outdoor activity line. One player selects an animal and the others try to guess it by asking questions about relative speed, size, and weight to another animal. If you aren’t sure if a polar bear is faster than a giraffe, the game book has tables and educational animal facts to help out. This is rated for 6 and up, 3-5 players, and will retail for $15.

Maus van Klecks (aka Mouse Van Klecks) is a like minded matching game of colors. One player chooses a subject and everyone secretly decides which three colors would be used to paint that thing. Reveal your painter’s palette and gain points for matching others. What colors did you choose for butterfly? Blue, red, and orange? Maus van Klecks is rated for 5+ and retails for $21.

Pick a Patch seems to be a slightly older (ages 3-12 ) version of My Very First Games: Touching and Feeling: a tactile game where players draw matching tiles from a bag based on texture. Where Touching and Feeling (ages 2+) uses wooden shapes, Pick a Patch uses textured squares and players get to shove them into a monster’s mouth when they are right. Pick a Patch will retail for $36.

Our last game is Brandon the Brave, where a brave knight completes tasks by placing triangularly shaped tiles to create the countryside. Place tiles in the right order to complete four tasks to win. A game for 5+, retailing for $14.


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