Rush Hour, Rush Hour Jr., Zingo 1-2-3, and Disney WordARound all still reside in the game closet here at the Bell compound. And, all of these family games were published by ThinkFun, a family arm of the Ravensburger gaming family. So, any time I can get my hands on more ThinkFun, I’m gonna do it!
Goats’ Day Out has a somewhat unfortunate title. When I saw the press release, I couldn’t believe that this was the final title. It evokes almost everything except what happens in the game, so I found myself answering more questions than I would have liked:
“Wait, so it is a game about goats like, out on the town somewhere? Like at a party?”
“Were the goats prisoners, and then they were released?”
Here is the actual premise: a bunch of goats—2-5 goats, to be precise—have broken out of a local petting zoo and are eating a bunch of things from local schools, department stores, and restaurants. Players have to help their goat eat just the right combination of things to score points by placing polyomino tiles into the gut spaces of their goat.
On a turn, each player takes one tile from a “street tray” (???) and places it anywhere inside their goat. (Each of the game’s five goats has a stomach with a different shape.) Place a tile, then pass the street tray to the next player, repeating this process until 1) there are no pieces left on any street trays, or 2) a player can no longer legally place any more items into the goat’s gut.
Usually, players can get at least eight, maybe nine pieces into a gut. The pieces are all of the polyomino usual suspects: 1×4 straight lines, L-shaped hooks, 2×2 squares, etc. A few of the pieces are weirdly shaped, which is perfect to help edge those nooks and crannies inside of a goat’s stomach.
At the end of the round, bonuses are awarded for placing department store items like backpacks next to other department store items (because, well, digestion?), and players even get bonuses for placing pieces that appear to have been chomped, complete with a small bite taken out of that particular tile. During the round, when players completely cover gut spaces with crossed lines, they get a small bonus—sticking a stone (blocker) in an opponent’s goat or sticking a 1×1 or 1×2 bonus piece in their own goat, which will be scored at the end of the round.
Three rounds later, the game is over!
Goats Love to Eat Trash (Alternate Title)
If you are a tile placement game aficionado, Goats’ Day Out has a lot to like—the chance to tickle that Tetris puzzle bone in a snappy 30-minute playtime, at least with 2-4 players. (I have not tried this game at the full five-player count.) The production does the job, despite a pile of pieces that struggle to fit back in the box; the chomped pieces still make me laugh, because I love earning the chomp bonus for collecting the most of those tiles.
One area of opportunity—giving the game a little more personality. My kids were surprised that the goats didn’t have names, or maybe labels for the different flavors of goat featured here. There are no little touches on the individual food pieces, either; little charms on backpacks, for example, or a little variation to the foot-long hotdog tiles.
Like every other ThinkFun game, I was impressed with how simple it is to teach Goats’ Day Out. Our family was up and running in just a few minutes (the box says ages 8+; my 6-year-old had the hang of it after a few minutes).
Save for missing the extra scoring for chomped pieces, we had all of the rules down pat after the first round of our first playthrough. I still don’t know thematically how it is that some pieces are chewed while some others are simply swallowed, but we’ll save that for another day.
Goats’ Day Out didn’t have the immediate ask for replays the way games like Zingo 1-2-3 did; in part, I think this was because of my kids’ lack of real “wow” moments. A different ThinkFun game, Rush Hour Jr., lived on my coffee table for so long that my son probably played that game every day for two months (played both as a game, and as a toy that had an ice cream truck used as target fodder for my son’s army toys). There’s always an “a-ha” with games of Rush Hour, something lacking here that meant Goats’ Day Out never really sunk its teeth into our collective.
Goats’ Day Out is interesting, and while it isn’t ThinkFun’s best work, our family has no regrets about getting it to the table. Now, that title? It could use a little work!