Welcome! For a lot of gamers out there, we might not have a large group of people that we can play with on a regular basis. For many of us, our main gaming partners are our significant others or our children or our roommates or a co-worker or… well, you get the drift. Whatever the case may be, often times we find ourselves sitting across the table with just one other person with nothing to do. In this series of articles, we will be turning our focus on some great 2-player only games that can fill that void!
When I was a child, my aunt and I would sit around for hours on end playing Perfection. In this game, there was a spring loaded playing board connected to a timer. The goal was to fit as many plastic shapes into their slots on the board before it popped up and tossed the pieces all over the room. It was a nerve-wracking game that tested your dexterity and your puzzle solving skills at every turn. The sound of that little timer counting down constantly had me on edge, heart pounding as my fingers struggled to pop in the pieces before time ran out. Even though I knew what to expect, the game would always startle me when the timer ended and it flung my failures into my face. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game that gave me that kind of feeling.
Kanoodle Head-to-Head (referred to hereafter as simply Kanoodle) fills me with that same kind of anticipatory dread that Perfection did but, unlike Perfection, my fate is not at the whim of some soulless machine. I am at the mercy of my opponent and they are at mine.
How It’s Played
Kanoodle is played on a small game board that is divided into two different sections. These two playing areas contain an identical set of indentations that are intended to hold the plastic puzzle pieces that also come with the game. Each side of the board has a button that will cause the other side of the board to pop up causing any pieces that have been placed there to fly out of their indentations and spill onto the table.
Also included in the game is a set of cards that each contain an arrangement of shapes on them as well as a card holder that is affixed between the two playing areas. There’s no set number of matches that have to be played, so the players could simply choose an agreed upon number before they began (best 3 out of 5, for example). To begin a match, one of the players will slide the card into the slot and then yell “Go” at which point the players will race to place all of their pieces onto the board before their opponent does. The trick is that you have to place your pieces down in the configuration shown on the card.
Once someone has completed the challenge, they’ll press the eject button for the other person’s side and then turn the game board around for inspection. If they successfully placed all of their pieces into the correct configuration, they win the match. Then, if they’re planning to play again, the players will reset their boards, gather their pieces, and select a new card from the deck for the next round.
This is probably the shortest review that I have ever written and that is because there’s really not much to this game. That simplicity is both the game’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness.
Because Kanoodle has such a quick and easy setup and features fast and simple game play, it isn’t difficult to get to the table. Each game typically lasts less than a minute and this usually leads into an absurd number of rematches. The first time that my wife and I played, we’d agreed on a “Best 2 out of 3” scenario and that quickly turned into a “Best 3 out of 5” and then a “Best 5 out of 7”. I have no doubt that it would have just snowballed from there were it not for our son getting fussy.
The game was a lot of nail biting fun. As I feverishly worked to fit the pieces into my array, I could hear my wife’s pieces clacking on the other side of the board. This led me to start trying to move faster which led to her trying to move faster than me. Before we knew it, we were in full on competitive mode and neither of us wanted to concede defeat. This just goaded us into playing even more. Once we got going, we didn’t want to stop. Sounds like a winner, right?
Well, not quite. Like I said before, the game’s simplicity, while a boon, is also the biggest check against it. Kanoodle sat there staring at me from the shelf for several months before I decided it was time to take it down and force myself to play it. Each time my wife and I would find ourselves in the mood for some board gaming, given the options presented to us, Kanoodle always wound up at the bottom of the list. There was always a better, more fulfilling game that could be played in its stead. I’d wager that the biggest challenge in playing Kanoodle won’t be the puzzles themselves, but just actually getting the game to the table in the first place.
Another slight negative is that the cardboard in this game is rather flimsy. When I first assembled the card holder and attempted to slide in a card, the cardboard had already split, making it difficult to insert the card. As I sat there struggling to slide the card home, I couldn’t help but think that my opponent had a distinct advantage because they could just study the card as I fought with it. This can easily be negated by giving each person a few moments to study the setup before the game begins. In the end, I wound up having to use some clear packing tape to resolve the flimsiness issue so that I could quickly insert a new card in between matches.
That being said, Kanoodle Head-to-Head is a fine game and I’ve rather enjoyed it. Not only have my wife and I had a lot of fun with it, but my niece and nephew (10 and 6 respectively) enjoyed playing it even though there was a lot of sibling-related squabbling involved. I’m not sure if that was because of the game itself (like I said, it really brings out your competitive nature) or if that’s just how they are. The takeaway is that they had a lot of fun and, if it actually hits your table, I think that you will, too.
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.