Review: Busytown Board Game

Photo of the Busytown game board with the Lowly Worm and Huckle Cat game pawns. Numerous illustrations of Busytown activities surround them.

Richard Scarry’s Busytown Board Game by I Can Do That! Games sets a high benchmark for cooperative games, pulling everyone into the fun while remaining true to the spirit of Scarry’s imaginary world of Busytown. The game is for up to four players, rated for 3-years-and-up.


  • A 6-foot long, 10-inch wide game board that fits together in three sections with jigsaw puzzle-like connectors.
  • Four pawns in the form of Busytown characters: Lowly Worm, Huckle Cat, Hilda Hippo and Sally Cat (Huckle’ sister). Two boys, two girls.
  • 1 spinner to determine pawn movement
  • 1 ferry tile big enough to fit all four pawns
  • 10 magnifying glass tokens
  • 6 food tiles
  • 30 Goldbug cards depicting commonly found objects in the board’s illustrations
  • 1 countdown sand timer
  • A sturdy storage box. It seems like an odd thing to point out, but lots of games come in flimsy boxes. The pawns also fit into the box fully assembled.


Photo of the huge Busytown board game laid out on my floor.

Drive through Busytown, hop on the ferry and arrive at Picnic Island before the pigs have eaten all the food. Oh, and do it together with the other racers as a team!

You know a game board is humongous when you have to climb a ladder to photograph it.


On your turn, flick the spinner.

1) If a number is indicated — 1, 2, 3 or 4 — the player moves down the road leading through Busytown. If he reaches one of two forks in the road, he chooses which way to turn. If he lands on one of four shortcut spaces, he moves his car along a shortcut arrow to land on a space further down the road.

2) There is a 20 percent chance the spinner lands on a “Pigs Eat” space, causing the removal of 1 of 6 food tokens from Food Island. The same player then spins again.

3) There is a 20 percent chance the spinner lands on a picture of Goldbug. A Goldbug card is then turned over, revealing the picture of an object found in the illustrations of Busytown on the game board. For example, a hammer, garbage can or flower pot.

Photo of a magnifying glass token placed over an illustration of a yellow kite on the gameboard, next to a Goldbug card containing a drawing of a kite.

Photo showing the Busytown game spinner, Goldbut cards, magnifying glass tokens and hourglass countdown timer.

The countdown hourglass timer is overturned and then all players furiously begin searching for all appearances of that object on the game board. When a player finds one, he places a magnifying glass token over the object to identify it. When time is up, the tokens are counted and then all players advance that number of spaces on the board.

4) Near the end of the board is a water crossing with a ferry tile capable of holding the player pawns. When a player reaches the ferry, his turn stops and his teammates continue taking turns until all players have boarded the ferry.

Once the ferry is ready to launch, players resume taking turns to complete the last 5 spaces to arrive at Picnic Island.

All players win if they reach Picnic Island before the pigs have eaten all of the food tokens.

Game Challenges

Toddlers learn how to flick a spinner, move a pawn and search for objects Where’s Waldo-style. The concept of losing is introduced in such a fashion that everyone loses, rather than feeling singled out.

Busytown is probably not your child’s first board game, with something like Snail’s Pace Race being shorter and simpler with game variations which allow for no losers. However, losing is an important challenge to face and Busytown eases a child into it as best as possible.

Game Variation

Kids will get better at finding objects as they become more familiar with the game board, but unless they play it every day, they are unlikely to memorize everything. The ease or difficulty of finding Goldbug objects can be moderated by how quickly parents playing the game (or watching the game) assist their kids in finding the objects. At first, parents may even find it a challenge!

Chances are kids won’t be paying close attention to the hourglass timer, so you could just give them extra time by forgetting to tell them their time is up. Or, make a rule that you turn over the hourglass twice before stopping the hunt for objects.

What’s Cool

You probably already noticed it. The game incorporates traditional elements of moving down a board toward a goal with cooperative play. Everyone searches for objects on the Goldbug cards and the better the team performs, the more everyone benefits.

Better yet, as you near the goal, it becomes more important to help teammates with the Goldbug searches because everyone departs for Picnic Island together.

The more players you have, the more difficult it could be to get everyone onto the ferry in time. And thus, teamwork becomes even more important so that you get everyone moving ahead as many as 10 spaces in one swoop.

Additionally, I’m a rabid Richard Scarry fan, and so my daughter is well acquainted with the world of Busytown. Our journey began three years ago with Richard Scarry’s Biggest Word Book Ever! and today we own 29 Richard Scarry books.

What’s amazing is that I Can Do That! Games has found a way to incorporate the spirit of Scarry’s artwork into the gameplay. It’s not that the game board is colorfully illustrated with a myriad of scenes with characters of Busytown going about their harried day — although that’s true.

The big idea with Scarry’s books is the wonder of looking through page-after-page of detailed scenes. This game has kids doing the same thing they do in the books, exploring every last detail of every illustration.

Photo of the four player pawns on the ferry tile about to disembark for a feast on Picnic Island.

My daughter would have loved this game when she was 3-years-old, and I know she’s going to love it now at 5-years. It was submitted to Thingamababy for review and I wanted to tell you about it with enough time to order it before Christmas. On a scale of 1 to 10, I can’t tell you if my daughter ranks it a 15 or a 20 yet because I’m saving the game as a centerpiece of Christmas morning.

Buy it at Toys R Us for $15. I hate to lose a few pennies in affiliate sales by not directing you to Amazon, but Toys R Us has the better deal, a whole $25 less than Amazon. Always compare Amazon prices. Always!


4 Responses to “Review: Busytown Board Game”

  1. Jennifer says:

    That looks really fun. So much that I’m thinking of buying it to use as some teambuilding excersizes for my employees. This would be a great fun way to get teams working together.

    Thanks for sharing!

    December 3rd, 2009 at 12:27 pm

  2. Allison says:

    Very nice looking game! Thanks for the great review.

    I don’t think my son is ready for this one yet but it is going on the wish list for later.

    December 3rd, 2009 at 3:08 pm

  3. P.A. says:

    We actually just got this game as a gift. We’ve played it several times and each game feels different. Moving the raft with all of the players appears particularly fun to little ones. I would recommend it definitely for the younger crowd.

    December 3rd, 2009 at 6:02 pm

  4. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    My son isn’t ready for this. But my husband loved Richard Scarry as a kid so I’m always looking for those books. I’ll keep this in mind for when my son is ready. (hey, it took us two years to buy Beethoven’s Wig. We can do it!)

    December 4th, 2009 at 8:25 am

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