From time to time, I find myself tempted to bemoan the size of HABA’s larger boxes. Space is at a premium. Rhino Hero: Super Battle could fit in a box half its size. “I’d own more HABA games if they were smaller,” I grumble to myself. “They just take up so much space. This,” I say, as I pick up Flotsam Float, “could be so much smaller.”
It’s in that moment, though, that the pieces tumble around in the box, and I experience a Pavlovian response. The sound of wooden pieces hitting against one another is the chaotic ambient noise of a nursery. HABA knows exactly what they’re doing when they make their bigger boxes so much larger than the components. HABA boxes sound like play™.
Orphans on a Raft
That is especially the case with Flotsam Float. To move that box around is to bear auditory witness to the collapse of an infinity array of Jenga towers. Why is that? It’s full of, well, flotsam and jetsam.
To set up the game, you populate the table with six islands, arranged in a pinwheel. Each island is surrounded by four cards, and those cards in turn are each covered with one wooden bit of refuse. The bits are wonderful. Be they shells, shiny anchors, long and curved bits of kelp, starfish, treasure chests, or something that’s either a sea urchin or a deactivated deep sea mine, all the pieces feel solid and inviting. HABA has always excelled at production, and even by their lofty standards, Flotsam Float is exceptional.
The final piece is the raft tile, which is set randomly in the middle of an island. The starting player chooses a piece and sets it on the raft before revealing the hidden side of the card underneath. This shows some number of shells, which are points, and one of six symbols that tell the active player where they have to move the raft.
Carefully, veeeeeeery carefully, the active player picks up the raft and moves it to its destination. If everything stays on the raft, they get to keep the card and add it to their pile of shells. Keeping the pile intact gets harder and harder as the game progresses, since items aren’t removed from the raft unless they fall. Structures on the Flotsam Float get pretty precarious.
I Fall to Pieces
The wooden pieces are shaped to encourage inventive stacking, though it has been my experience that the reality rarely lives up to the potential. The fact that you will have to move the raft in a moment seems to keep most players from getting carried away, and the age of the participants tends to keep anything too elaborate from having time to manifest. Adults come up with some cruel, cruel tricks, though.
With children, the spills are frequent and the giggles are plenty. That’s what matters most. The first game I played with children was with a group of 5-6 year olds, and their attention was held the entire time. The game felt long to me, and I was worried it was going to lose them, but they enjoyed it, and immediately asked to play again.
Flotsam Float is a charming diversion. Like most of the best games for children, it doubles as a beautiful, and in this case eclectic, set of wooden pieces to play with. Like all the best HABA releases, the components themselves encourage your imagination to spring into action. Grab an oar and come on board. The water’s great.