If you are a regular reader of BGQ, you know that I’m constantly on the lookout for new games to entertain my pair of toddlers. Frankly, the longer I can keep them away from games like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders, the better off we’ll all be. That’s probably why I’ve been feeding them a steady diet of HABA games, as they are one of the leaders in this age range.
But today, we are going to take a look at a giant game from publisher Blue Orange Games (Kingdomino, Meeple Land) that’s definitely got a “wow” factor. It’s called Pancake Monster, a push your luck game for players ages 3+.
There are two sets of rules for Pancake Monster included in the box. The main way play has you dealing out the 12 pancake cards to each player as evenly as possible. Each pancake has 1-3 toppings on it. On a player’s turn, they draw the top pancake card from their stack (or choose one if playing with older kids) and place it in the monster’s mouth. They must then click the plunger as many times as the number of toppings on their pancake card. If nothing happens, the next player takes their turn.
If the monster pops up, then the player must collect all the pancakes inside the monster. The monster is then reset, and the next player takes their turn. Play continues in this manner until one player has placed all their pancake cards.
The second way to play is very similar to the first, but it involves putting articles of clothing in the monster whenever you play the same topping as the previous player. Players will start the game with three items of clothes they collected from around the house—hats, scarf, socks, etc… (this isn’t a stripping game). Other than that, the gameplay is the same as above, with players having to collect all the clothes inside the monster if it pops up. The first player to place all their clothing items in the monster wins.
My kids were super excited when they saw the box for Pancake Monster. It’s a giant box and the monster inside definitely has a nice table (or floor) presence. Before I even had a chance to put the game together my daughter was walking around with the monster over her head like a goofball.
Once we actually started playing the game though, they had a ton of fun. And I must say, the joy that a parent gets as your three-year-old get surprised by the first pop-up of the monster is hard to explain. But they were both terrified and loved it at the same time. After a few pop-ups, their emotions had pretty much run the gamut of wanting to play more to a desire to stay as far away from the monster as possible.
But let’s talk about the gameplay for a minute. Frankly, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about either set of rules. The Game 1 rules were ok but having to take all the cards from the monster if it pops-up can really prolong the game. This isn’t the type of game where you are going to want to play for 30 minutes trying to get a winner. After about 4-5 pop-ups my kids were ready to play something else. And the laundry variant? That was even less appealing.
In the end, we just shuffled all the pancake cards together and each player drew a random one on their turn. If the monster popped up, that player was the loser and we started over. This worked much better for my kids, as games were only a couple of minutes long and I didn’t have to deal them out pancake cards for them to hold and smash up. But if you have older kids, one of the standard rules might work OK for them.
The other issue I had with the game is that the mechanism that controls the monster pop-up kept breaking on us. The pieces, which I assume were glued together at the factory, came off fairly regularly. And the monster would sometimes not even stay down once I reset it. It was pretty frustrating at times. If your game is based on a gimmick, then that gimmick better work.
At the end of the day, my kids really enjoyed Pancake Monster. So, despite the rules we ended up modifying and the mechanism that was kludgy at best, they asked to play it pretty often over the first week I got it. The downside is that it’s not a game I can just toss at them to keep them occupied. I need to reset the mechanism and make sure they don’t start eating the pancake cards. Most of the components they would easily destroy if left unattended.
I also think that the age range for Pancake Monster is going to be pretty tight. At 3.5 years old, my kids are probably at the bottom of the age range. But I think maybe 7-8 might be the top. This definitely isn’t a game you are going to pull out with your gaming group, except maybe as a drinking game.
Final Score: 3 Stars – An entertaining game in short bursts, but the rules try and make it more complicated than it needs to be, and the mechanism could use some more time in the oven.
• Fun table presence
• Kids love the pop-up monster
• Easy to learn and play
• Rules as written feel over complicated
• Pop-up mechanism broke too often