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800 Pound Gorilla Game Review

Taco, cat, gorilla!

Dolphin Hat’s new game, 800 Pound Gorilla, hits store shelves this fall. Justin takes the new game for a spin(ner) in his review!

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

When Dave Campbell, founder and lead designer for Dolphin Hat Games, has something new up his sleeve, I’m always down to find out if it lands.

That’s because here at the Bell household, we have played two Dolphin Hat games dozens of times: Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza (which has sold millions of copies since it first hit the market in 2018) and Gimme That!, one of my ten favorite games of 2022.

Taco Cat is the #2 card game on Amazon at the time of this writing, only surpassed by Uno. That’s really saying something, so I think it’s fair to say that Dave’s creations are a hit with people who love games. As I noted in our 2023 Gen Con preview, I was very excited to see if the newest Dolphin Hat creation, 800 Pound Gorilla, could keep the hot streak going.

I’m happy to share that 800 Pound Gorilla meets the standards set by the other Dolphin Hat games. I was hoping for a home run, but I’ll settle for a ground rule double.

Chaos Engine (More a V6 Than a V8)

800 Pound Gorilla once again asks families (ages 8+, 3-6 players) to gather around a table for a 10-to-15-minute shouting match. This time, though, there’s a spinner.

This spinner adds tension to a simple setup. Cards, each featuring a picture of a gorilla, are scattered around a board holding a spinner and a few toys—two plushy bananas and a few coconuts, one less coconut than the number of players.

The spinner has five spaces—three are dedicated to a small, medium, and large picture of a gorilla, with the final two spaces depicting a banana and a coconut.

The youngest player spins first. If the spinner lands on a gorilla, everyone has a few seconds to take one of the gorilla cards, which is sneakily scaled in size but distorted by the background of the picture. In this way, each of the 100 cards in the game features a slightly different sized gorilla, with that gorilla’s weight listed on the back, anywhere from 701-800 pounds. (For example, it would take quite a bit of staring to see this, but the 800 pound gorilla image is slightly larger than the picture of the 799 pound gorilla, etc.)

When players select then flip their gorilla cards, players get “banana points” based on the spin:

  • If the large gorilla was spun, the player who picked the heaviest gorilla gets two points, second place gets one.
  • If the small gorilla was spun, the player holding the lightest gorilla gets two points, with second-lightest getting one point.
  • If the medium gorilla was selected, the player(s) with the middleweight gorilla each gets one point.

The other two spin locations generate more chaos. If bananas or coconuts are spun, players all look at the face-up banana point card. Each point card in the central stack has either a funny phrase or an action that all players have to do before trying to grab the selected item (bananas or coconuts). These items are limited, so whoever ends up with an item gets points, and the other players get nothing.

When the gorilla cards around the board run out, so does the play time. Highest banana point total wins, with no tiebreaker.

My Son Knows Best

Our first play of 800 Pound Gorilla was a three-player game with my daughter, wife and I fighting over coconuts. My daughter had a slightly harder time selecting larger/heavier gorillas, which hurt her final score but not her enjoyment of the game.

That game wrapped up in maybe 12, 13 minutes. “Can we play again?” my daughter asked.

This was a good sign; if she wanted to play right away, that’s a good sign that the game is on track.

My six-year-old son, who watched but did not want to play the first game, immediately asked to join us for the second game. The four of us had a great time reaching for coconuts—we also placed the board closest to my son, since he has the shortest reach—and I was able to snag a narrow victory during our first four-player game.

I just assumed we were on a roll here, so I began to set up the game for a third consecutive play. I mean, who doesn’t want to knock out another 10-minute game before dinner?

“I don’t want to play any more, Daddy,” said my son. He then walked over to his Pokémon card collection to begin his never-ending process of sleeving and resleeving his cards in a binder sitting near the kitchen table.

“What’s up, buddy? Did you have fun?”

“It was alright. I had fun but I just don’t want to play again.”

The rest of the family was in general agreement with this. We all had fun playing it a couple times, and in a second session, there were similar vibes. Slapping at bananas and coconuts—similar to the chaos generated during every turn of Gimme That!, and many of the turns during Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza—was a hoot for our family. The spinner, the gorilla selection based on weight, and the general turn structure for 800 Pound Gorilla, were all fine, but not thrilling.

In fact, sometimes the most fun I had during this game was waiting for the spinner, hoping it would land on a banana or a coconut. That’s because I loved the result of those turns more than the gorilla selection. I was surprised that I had a better feel for the larger and medium-sized gorilla than my kids; in our house, my wife and I regularly get smoked by the kids during Taco Cat because they are able to conceptualize the image on the card matched with the word being read at any given time.

But they struggled here a little more than expected. Didn’t lead to a bad time, but it didn’t lead to the kids winning any of our games. That’s possibly why they didn’t love 800 Pound Gorilla as much; a bit like Piñata Blast, kids don’t love games where the adults seem to always win.

That still means I would recommend 800 Pound Gorilla, especially as a game for adults or a larger family game (even with older kids/teens) that pushes the max player count. Three people just doesn’t generate enough chaos for a game like this, but my sense is that six players would be a great time. (I only tried 800 Pound Gorilla with my family of four.) The rules are a two-minute teach, literally, and the production and art style are both solid.

Dolphin Hat really gets family-weight games, and 800 Pound Gorilla is no exception. It’s not on par with their earlier creations, because my family wasn’t itching to play it again and again like they did with the first two Dolphin Hat games we’ve tried. Still, this is worth a look for parents looking for their next holiday gaming gift.

AUTHOR RATING

800 Pound Gorilla details

About the author

Justin Bell

Love my family, love games, love food, love naps. If you're in Chicago, let's meet up and roll some dice!

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