With the holiday season approaching, we’re always looking for great gift ideas, especially the ones that can take us out of the digital domain and interacting with others. For those with younger kids, the board game Dodo is a fantastic option. Here’s our review.
Designed by Frank Bebenroth and Marco Teubner, Dodo is being published internationally by 999 Games and KOSMOS and was already awarded in the ‘best children’s game’ category upon its launch. It’s designed for two to four players playing together cooperatively, with each round only lasting ten minutes.
In Dodo, a dodo bird sitting atop a mountain releases an egg at the start of the game. The goal is to make sure this egg, which rolls down the mountain slowly, gets to the bottom safely – where a boat awaits it. To do this, you’ll need to place bridge pieces along the side of the mountain to keep it from falling, which you do by rolling the dice and turning over tokens with the matching construction elements in order to “complete” a piece and place it. As long as you work together efficiently, you’ll be able to place the bridge parts and get the boat ready in time before the egg falls and you lose the game in a dramatic fashion.
Although “Mount Dodo” is an imposing structure on the gaming table, it’s surprisingly easy to set up. All the bridge pieces are numbered and color-coded, the bridge supports need a one-time assembly but click onto the sides very easily and the box has a convenient layout that includes pictures to tell you where everything goes. After the initial setup, you can be up and running in two to three minutes for future games, because after you built the tower and ready the boat you just have to put the egg in place and surround the tower with the included tokens.
As with any good kids game, Dodo is easy to learn and play, and keeps kids engaged throughout its short runtime. The (youngest) player who goes first starts by unleashing the egg and rolling the included die. And although the egg is shaped more like a regular ball, it’s mesmerizing to watch, as it rolls down the bridge pieces much slower than you’d expect due to some kind of internal weight system – the adults were probably even more amazed at this design/engineering aspect than the kids were.
Besides rolling the die, you also turn over a token, and if the die and the token match (there are six different resources displayed on them) you get to place the token on the next bridge piece you need. If they don’t match, play turns to the next player and the token is turned back over – which introduces a memorization aspect to the game.
Because you cooperate, you can help each other remember where certain tokens are – after all, you’re in this together and all want the dodo egg to survive. When you add the required number of resource tokens to a bridge part, you get to place the tokens in a slot at the top of the mountain and put the bridge part on the side of the mountain, giving the egg more room to roll down. The focus of the game then moves to filling and placing the next bridge piece – and eventually the boat’s dock. Complete the dock, and you get to position the boat at the bottom of the hill to ensure a safe landing. Dodo egg saved!
Combining fine motor skills, memorization and cooperation, Dodo is a great game to play together with young kids (under 12, we’d say). The minimum required age is 6, but if you play together with one or more adults then younger kids can also have a blast with it – especially when giving specific tasks that make them a part of the game, like placing the bridge parts or remembering where a certain token is.
What certainly made the game stand out for us was also the beautiful design work. We’ve already mentioned the ingenious rolling egg, but the artwork also looks lovely and the mountain/tower is big enough to leave children in awe, convincing them that the stakes are high indeed for this precious dodo egg. And when you consider that this one has a nice budget-friendly price point, we can give it a glowing recommendation for families looking for something to play together during the holiday season.