A lazy river, floating narwhals, rings being tossed. No, I’m not talking about a carnival game at your city’s Summerfest. Although I can almost smell the corn dogs and deep-fried ores just thinking about it. But I digress, what I am describing is not a rigged carnival game, but Narwhal Free For All, a new family weight dexterity game published by Mixlore.
Narwhal Free for All is a dexterity game for 2-4 players, ages 5+, that takes about 10 minutes to play. The game plays best with 4 players.
There are two ways to play Narwhal Free For All, either with or without water, but I’ll go with the water rules as that’s the main point of the game. To play the game, one player is in charge of spinning a wheel which creates current for the water. The other players try and flip rings onto the narwhals floating around the board. To flip a ring, they are inserted into a slot in the base, pushed down on, and then they spring up onto the board.
A player scores 1 point for landing a ring on an opponent’s Narwhal, 2 points on the center iceberg, and 3 points for landing it on their own Narwhal. Players can keep flipping their four rings until they’ve all scored or until the yellow timer fish makes it all the way around the board.
After that, the points are tallied and the next player takes their turn spinning the current wheel. Once all players have had a turn at the wheel, the game ends and the player with the most points wins.
Let’s get one thing straight, there are no ways in H-E-Double Hockey Stick that I would let this game anywhere near my gaming table. It makes a huge mess of water and flying plastic. In fact, I’d regulate this one to an outdoor/backyard toy. Of course, that also means that your kids are going to lose the pieces outside in about 30 seconds, so your mileage may vary on that one.
The problem isn’t specifically with the water—although that does suck for cleanup and trying to put it back in a cardboard box—but with the paddlewheel system. There is a little basin to catch the water that spills from rotating the paddlewheel, but it fills up very quickly. Especially if you have enthusiastic little players as we had. In our games, it was full by the time the second player finished their turn at the wheel, then the water just starts overflowing out onto the table.
So yes, the game is a colossal mess to play. But If you can get past that, flipping the rings is fun, and the moving targets of the narwhals make for an entertaining challenge. Unfortunately, none of our players (parents and kids alike) wanted to be the one to spin the wheel. It’s not very fun, and most kids greedily eyed the flicking player’s roles. This game would have greatly benefited from a motorized wheel, although I’m guessing that would have been cost-prohibitive.
As I mentioned above, you can also play the game without water by putting the Narwhals into slots on the game board, but that pretty much kills the whole draw of the game. At that point you may as well just play one of the 100 other dexterity games.
Narwhal Free For All isn’t a bad game by any stretch when it comes down to the mechanics and gameplay. The clever idea of the lazy river was fun for all players and ages. Unfortunately, it also makes a stupid mess on your table and cleanup is a pain. I usually had to leave it out for a day or so to let all the pieces dry. So where does that leave us? For me, It’s a game that I would rarely pull off the shelf, just because I don’t want to deal with the headache of the water. Narwhal Free For All is just going to be too niche for something I want to keep in my collection.
Final Score: 3 Stars – While the gameplay is fun, it makes to big of a mess for me to bring out with any regularity.
• Fun trying to hit moving targets of the narwhals
• Quick to play, easy to learn
• Water as a gimmick was clever
• Makes a giant mess
• Spinning the wheel is about as much fun as it sounds
• No way to record points between rounds