Kids love animals. Think about your favorite kiddo and I’m sure you can identify what their favorite animals are. My daughter’s is a cat, because we just got a new pet not that long ago and it’s very much her spirit animal, and my son’s is a bat because, well, Batman is his favorite superhero. Barnyard Bunch from HABA brings that love for animals into this game, where kids and parents will work together to keep the animals from escaping the barnyard.
Barnyard Bunch is quick to set up and play. Lay out the board and paths, shuffle the deck, place your animals and that’s it. Turns consist of rolling the dice and drawing a card. Depending on the results, you’ll either move one or more animals further from the barn or move them back. The goal of the game is to keep all the animals on their paths by the time the deck has had its last card drawn. If you manage to do that, you win!
I had a chance to play this a couple of times with my 6-year-olds and both found things that they enjoyed about the game. My son really enjoyed the barn in the middle of the board, so much so that he turned into a rocket ship. My daughter liked all the animals, being able to identify them and having fun with noises. My kids really took to the toy aspect of the components and had a lot of fun interacting with them. As a parent, I appreciated that the game wasn’t overly complex. It’s nice when your child can remember what all the actions are that they can take during their turn.
Barnyard Bunch has a nice cooperative element to it, in that you can talk with your kids about decision-making without feeling like you are playing their turn for them. Everyone is working together to keep the animals from getting off the path. The strategy of the game is almost entirely visually accessible. Talking with your kids about which animals are furthest from the barn can help them decide who needs the most attention and this is a great chance to get them to work on counting. From an educational standpoint, I also appreciated the kids having the opportunity to identify animals and colors.
If you’re playing with a younger child, as with most games, their ability to focus can really determine the length of the game. When my daughter got very focused, it took us longer than the 15 minutes the game says it could take, but it wasn’t overly long past that. Because the game isn’t overly complex, I think kids ages five to seven will probably enjoy this game the most. Older kids might get through the game quickly and not find it very strategic or challenging, so they might not have a lot of enthusiasm to play it a second time. The game does have random elements with the dice and cards, but because there are more than enough opportunities to move the animals back, some of which move animals all the way back to the beginning, I never felt like keeping up was a constant challenge.
If I had to find the things to gripe about, I think it would only be two things. I wish the colors were a little bit more color-blind friendly or that there were color associated shapes as a secondary means for locating spaces where animals need to move. Especially if your kids are still learning those things, that could have been a nice additional educational tie-in. This isn’t to imply that the spaces or colors were hard for us to differentiate, but I like to think about accessibility and education.
The only other thing I would have liked to see included but was not a deal-breaker was deck scalability. If you have a child that is a little more distractible, the game could feel like it takes too long. That was true in my circumstance with my son, so it would have been nice to scale down the deck or otherwise shorten this aspect of the game. These are by no means barriers to the overall enjoyment of the game. These were just things that occurred to me while we played, and I thought they were worth sharing.
If you’re looking for a game for your kids that offers some educational aspects, such as decision making, identifying colors and animals, but also engages their sense of play through the theme and components, Barnyard Bunch is worth checking out. Older kids (8 and older) might breeze through the game faster but could be reluctant to play too many more times due to the light strategy.
Final Score: 4.5 Stars – An engaging, cooperative, and strategically-light game that your young kids will enjoy until the cows come home.
• Familiar barn animal theme that kids will enjoy
• Components encourage interaction and imagination play
• Offers opportunities to work on educational goals (counting, identify objects and colors) without feeling like school
• Might be too light for kids older than eight