It was a lovely day in Sunnyzoo, a place where all of the animals lived in harmony thanks to the efforts of a particular masked mammal. Mr Meows rubbed his eyes and went about his morning routine, preparing for a big day out. Construction workers could be seen adding weirdly shaped room after weirdly shaped room on top of his building, some kind of strange postmodern thing. As he gazed out the window, whom should he see but the very hero himself, Super Rhino! As he scaled up the building, it shook and shook and shook, and Mr Meows began to wonder if he might need to find a new place to live shortly…
This is Rhino Hero, an adorable game about building as tall a building as possible before it all comes crashing down. A colourful title from the game company Haba, which is renowned for its excellent line of kids games, Rhino Hero caught my attention when I heard several times about its somewhat cult following. Well, just recently I picked up my own copy of the game from Good Games Top Ryde and brought it with me to play with my lovely girlfriend (who is the true final authority on kids games!).
The Brief How-To
At the beginning of the game, players are each dealt five roof cards (seven in two player games). On your turn, you must first pick up new wall pieces and fold the cards (don’t worry, they’re made to do that) so as to follow the instructions on the current floor. You may have to place one piece in an arrow formation, or perhaps form a standard looking square room. Once you’ve done so, you get to place a new roof on top, and immediately resolve the special effect associated with it. Simple powers like “skip”, “draw” and “reverse” will be familiar to anyone who grew up playing Uno, but the real fun of the game is in the Rhino power.
When the Rhino power is revealed, the next player must not only stack the building as per normal, but they must also move Super Rhino from wherever he is currently to the new spot on the top floor. While the protagonist may be very deft at climbing, he’s also a big, fat rhino who’s likely gonna cause the building to fall down, especially if the structural integrity of the card tower is questionable (it always is).
Ultimately, the objective of the game is to get rid of your roof cards. If you manage to do that, or have the least roof cards remaining when someone collapses the tower, you win! However, if you’re the one that brings the building tumbling down, then you’re out of the running, even if you just placed your final roof tile!
Why I Like Rhino Hero
Jenga is a game that many people have fond memories of, and out of many of the “classic” board games, it’s one of the only ones that can actually somewhat stand up to the modern era of tabletop. Rhino Hero captures all the fun of Jenga by delivering it in an almost inverted fashion while also mixing in the simple elements of other popular games like Uno. Playing Rhino Hero is almost like a nostalgia trip for anyone who remembers sitting around the table with family and playing these well known hits.
Don’t be misled though; Rhino Hero is much more than a nostalgia trip, and much more than just a hybrid of two well known titles. Like every other Haba title, it’s beautifully produced, very colourful, and looks amazing on the table. It’s very portable, extremely quick to play (no more than 10 minutes or so per game) and generates all the laughs, smiles and excitement you’d hope for in a family title.
Some may frown at the “skip” and “reverse” cards, as many would have disliked the memory of “missing a turn” in Uno. Yet, sometimes you may not actually want a turn in Rhino Hero, and you may get just as much joy out of watching someone else sweating as they place the home of Mr Bear and Mr Meow on the very top, only to have the tower topple over!
The fun of Rhino Hero is in stacking the cards and watching other do so with great difficulty, not in actually winning the game. When the cards fall over, and Super Rhino goes flying off into the distance (or onto the floor, as it’s likely to be), you’re not really concerned about checking who won; you want to get right back in there and get stacking again and again. When the winner doesn’t matter and you’re drawn into the game purely by engaging gameplay, you know you’ve got a great game.