Review: Crazy Faces Card Game by eeBoo

Photo of my daughter holding Crazy Face cards in her hand, comparing them to to the top card in the communal discard pile.

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 Deck

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.

A photo of twelve sample Crazy Face cards displayed face up. The fruits and vegetables depicted with smiling faces include a banana, bell pepper, apple, tomato, lemon, onion, orange, kiwi, penuts, peach, spinach leaf and mushroom.

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 — 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.

Rules

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.

Holding Cards

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.

Photo of my daughter looking at two cards in her hand, a smiling tomato and a banana that looks like a giraffe.

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.

Transition Value

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 — 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.

Final Thoughts

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 — 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.

A close-up of the Crazy Faces box cover with the lid off to show the cards inside.

Crazy Faces at Amazon

Comments

9 Responses to “Review: Crazy Faces Card Game by eeBoo”

  1. Inki says:

    Sounds like a fun game! We’re still a ways from playing cards with our little one (7MO) but this is a great tip for a few years down the road!

    March 17th, 2008 at 1:54 am

  2. AJ says:

    Ahh, you’re a ways off from structured games, but two other card/tile games you can play are:

    My First Matching Game (cloth tiles):
    http://www.thingamababy.com/baby/2006/04/review_my_first.html

    Hiss snake-building game (for 2-year-olds):
    http://www.thingamababy.com/baby/2007/04/hisss.html

    March 17th, 2008 at 2:02 am

  3. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    Thanks! Our son is 7 mo too!

    Crazy Eights sounds a LOT like Uno…

    March 17th, 2008 at 7:30 am

  4. Andie says:

    That looks like a fun first card game-and yes the rules seem a lot like Uno. When my now 8 year old was 4 he was given a Skip-Bo deck for young players from a family member as a precursor to Uno. Although a quick web search only turned up cards that look more “boring”, the deck we have has numbers and water-creatures; dolphins, crabs, seahorses etc. with a person in a diving suit replacing the joker. That way if the child has difficulty identifying the matches by number, they can match by “creature”. Your little miss might enjoy this game too.

    March 17th, 2008 at 8:04 am

  5. anastasiav says:

    Heh. We bought a copy of this game on clearance before our son was born, then put some of the cards inside a standard multi-opening picture frame and hung it in his room as art. (We also did this with some images from a Saxton Freymann, so E has a “crazy food” theme going in his room, I guess.

    He’s in love with the orange.

    March 17th, 2008 at 1:48 pm

  6. Nicole says:

    I have this game sitting in our little bin of goodies to break out when I need that little “extra help” =)

    A game that we play a lot is “Walk the Dogs”. I think it says the minimum age is 6… but I tell ya… my little man may not strategize but he can certainly play by the rules. It’s definitely a “family game” that we play with friends when the kids go to bed … and it’s always a hit when received as a present. Little Miss might get a kick out of the 63 plastic little pups that go along with it =)

    Also, an update on the Bilibo: It is still going strong! We keep them in a corner and they are pulled out at least 4 times a week. I plan on getting a couple more because everyone wants their own at playdates … and they are fun stepping stones during our obstacle course days! (no socks though!)

    March 17th, 2008 at 2:11 pm

  7. Summer says:

    Very cute! Looks like a fun game – I just can’t imagine my 3 year old being able to figure it out. Heck I can’t even figure out card games sometimes. But then again I guess I shouldn’t underestimate her she plays her matching game pretty well. Did you find it hard to explain to your daughter?

    March 17th, 2008 at 7:16 pm

  8. AJ says:

    Summer, it was easy teaching our daughter the game. Keep in mind, we were teaching her toddler board games when she was two and haven’t exposed her to the comparatively exciting world of video entertainment.

    Four First Board Games
    http://www.thingamababy.com/baby/2007/02/boardgames.html

    Snail’s Pace Race:
    http://www.thingamababy.com/baby/2007/05/snailspacerace.html

    What’s different, maybe, is that she has a good attention span and patience. But I think if your child can play Candy Land, she can probably handle Crazy Faces.

    The notion of rule-based games that aren’t physical in nature (tag or hide-and-seek) can seem a bit foreign. My daughter has friends who aren’t remotely ready. The introduction of these games needs to be made 1-on-1 with a parent.

    March 17th, 2008 at 7:27 pm

  9. AnjieNet says:

    My just turned 4 year old daughter loves this game too. After a couple of tries she had it down in no time. She uses the stack method of holding her cards and looking through too or sometimes uses a card holder which seems more awkward for her. We bought a deck of oversized Go Fish cards from the dollar store that she enjoys playing as well. We’ve found that she actually memorizes what cards she has in her hands and will tell you to GO FISH! before even looking at her cards…and she is usually spot on!

    March 18th, 2008 at 10:24 am

Post a comment

(will not be published)