In her letter discussing their cooperative games, Peaceable Kingdom president Donna Jaffe admits that she was a sore loser growing up. She loved playing games and enjoying the community, but losing made her sulk. Even when she won, she would feel bad for having made someone else lose. While there is much to be said for competition and individual achievement, there is another option in which we cooperating, pooling our resources for a common goal. In The Great Cheese Chase, that goal is to get to the cheese party.
TGCC’s theme is rich and entertaining. Three mice start in the kitchen carrying bits of “borrowed” cheese. They want to make it to the attic for a grand old time, but the orange housecat Tiger is in their path. The board and tokens are delightfully illustrated with plenty of hidden details like toys in the bedroom, toothbrushes in the bathroom, and a framed picture of cheese in the living room. Younger players might have fun making up the story of the mice alongside playing the game.
In gameplay, players take turns spinning the spinner to land on a number or a picture of Tiger. For its cooperative mechanic, a player moves a mouse of his or her choosing the number of spaces spun. When Tiger comes up on the spinner, his token moves forward a space. If the mice make it safely past Tiger and to the attic, they win. If Tiger gets there first, he crashes the cheese party, and the mice will have to try again. Using the spinner gives the game a foundation of luck, but logical decisions based on that luck give a sense of strategy.
Because any mouse may be moved, there is often a clear answer to each spin. This makes for a good chance to discuss strategy and show why moving one mouse might be better than the other, steering clear of Tiger or picking up at Catnip token that will make Tiger stagger backward a space. Different players might have different opinions on the proper action, and bossier players may try to take over, so it is important that everyone has a chance to play out his or her own idea. Helping out when asked is fine, but making mistakes in a safe environment is a great way to learn.
The Great Cheese Chase is a game for two to six players aged five and up. Games are very quick, lasting only about fifteen minutes. Even if the players do not win, such a short game makes it possible for another round and another chance. Through its fun use of mice sneaking to a cheese party past a cat and its cooperative play, young players will love the Chase.
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