Monday, March 17th, 2008
Review: Crazy Faces Card Game by eeBoo
Crazy Faces by eeBoo is a lively remake of the card game Crazy Eights. My 3-year-old daughter has been enjoying Crazy Faces with a range of people visiting us in the final days of our second pregnancy.
I’ve been skeptical of this game since I started noticing it in toy stores a year or two ago… because, hey, why not just use a regular card deck? But then my wife went and used a gift certificate at a hospital gift store. I must concede, Crazy Faces has certain advantages.
The Crazy Face cards feature images of 12 humanized fruits and vegetables that are endowed with eyes, noses and mouths. The faces are the carvings of Saxton Freymann, an illustrator for a number of Scholastic children’s books about food. According to Wikipedia, he’s also the spouse of eeBoo’s president.
The faces are a hit with my daughter. They are the obvious attraction that helps ease kids into the game.
Regular suits are shown on the cards, but in different colors â€” blue diamonds, green clubs, orange spades and red hearts. The jack and queen cards have been replaced with 11 and 12. There is no king or 13.
In 2-player games, 7 cards are dealt to each player. In larger games, 5 cards are dealt. A draw and discard pile are created for communal use.
The first player looks at the top card in the discard pile and tries to find a match in his hand that corresponds to the suit, number or crazy face, and plays one such card onto the discard pile.
A wild eight card (a smiling kiwi) can be played to specify the suit the next player must try to match.
If no match is possible and no wild eights are held, the player draws a card and keeps drawing until a play is possible. An official rule variation for young players is to draw 3 cards maximum before play proceeds to the next person.
The game ends when one player runs out of cards. You may optionally award the face value of cards remaining in other players’ hands and tally it on paper for the winner. The first person to reach 100 points wins. Or, let the fun reside in merely playing the game without keeping score.
Toddlers struggle with how to hold normal cards in their tiny hands. Although intended for ages 3-and-up, Crazy Face cards are oversized at almost 3"x4".
We tried letting our daughter place her cards spaced out, face up in front of her, but found that she sometimes failed to identify cards that way. There were too many details to take in at the same time.
What works for her is to hold her cards grouped together as a single wad in her hands, looking at the top card and then moving it to the back of the wad. Sometimes she’ll fan the cards slightly to look at two or three at a time. This method better focuses her attention on the card’s details.
There are card holding devices you can buy to help kids manage their cards. I’ll discuss them soon in another article.
Observations on the Dynamics of 3-Year-Old Play
1. When played one-on-one, there is a greater sense of loss than when played with three or more people. It’s hard to feel sad if there is another loser sitting next to you.
In groups, the game can be enjoyed simply as a game, rather than a competition. My wife is careful to announce, "I’m out of cards," rather than "I won."
2. An adult is more likely to win in a 1-on-1 game because strategy is a bigger factor. If I have four hearts and change the suit in the communal pile to hearts, there is a good chance I’ll benefit in future turns. But in a three player game, there is a greater chance for other players to alter the course of the game and ruin my plans. The more luck involved, the more likely kids can win.
3. Some important nuances still allude my daughter at just 4 months shy of her fourth birthday. For example, she will play a wild eight and then choose a suit that she doesn’t hold in her hand (thus ruining the point of playing the wild card). But hey, she still wins sometimes.
4. She loves dealing the cards, and wishes she could shuffle.
This game could be a transition for toddlers into playing regular card games with standard card decks. However, several factors are a hindrance.
The suit symbols are presented smaller than the card numbers, making them the least noticeable element on the cards. They should be of equal size.
At the risk of being beaten senseless by a rogue band of graphic designers, I’ll say the suits should also be presented in their traditional colors â€” red and black.
For what it’s worth, an elderly friend playing my daughter had trouble distinguishing between spades and hearts, probably due to size, color and contrast issues (while the suits have consistent colors, the background colors vary).
The deck is indeed a carnival of color, but it could stand to be dialed back a little.
The most important aspect of Crazy Face games is that they don’t last long. When you sit down for a round of Candy Land, you can have victory snatched from you repeatedly and give up frustrated as the game drags out forever.
Crazy Faces has no far away goal, just the discarding of what’s in your hand. Play with the "pick up 3 cards maximum" rule (or even reduce it to two or one) and the game moves swiftly while the smiling fruit and vegetable faces keep the mood light.
For us, Crazy Faces is a fun game that travels well and is easy for kids to quickly grasp â€” and isn’t mind-numbing for adults. If the numbers or suits are confusing, hey, just look at the faces. My daughter has picked Crazy Faces as a game she’s bringing to the hospital when her brother is born.