From publisher Educational Insights and designer Riley Wilkinson comes The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel – a dexterity game about hungry squirrels competing to gather colored acorns faster than their opponents. On their turn, a player will flick the dial and then collect whichever acorn the pointer points to and add it to their tree. But, wait! Not every icon on the spinner is helpful to the players. So, which squirrel will gather their acorns first?
My version of the game is the 10th Birthday Edition. The game is packaged inside of a large box that resembles the outline of a tree. The front of the box is festooned with the image of a tree laden with acorns and a squirrel scurrying up its side. The colors are bright and evocative. This special edition has replaced the traditional white background with black and included some well-placed spot UV highlights which make certain aspects of the artwork appear extra glossy. The squirrel also has a velvety texture. This package is as much an art piece as it is a board game conveyance.
Opening the box you’ll find a collection of rubber acorns with golden bodies and different colored caps: blue, green, red, yellow, and purple. There are also 4 plastic cups that are sculpted and painted to resemble tree trunks. Each of these has 5 color-ringed holes set into them to accommodate the acorns. There is also a spinner and what the instruction booklet calls the “Squirrel Squeezer”.
This squeezer is the most adorable game component that I have ever seen. Just take a look for yourself:
And in case you were wondering, yes, the squirrel is covered in velvet. This component quality is top-notch, and it doesn’t just stop there. Even the inside of the box is fully illustrated. In fact, the inside of the box will actually comprise most of your game area.
Exploring the Environment
Before delving into the game, you and your child can explore the various components together. There’s a lot to break down. What do squirrels eat? What colors are the acorns? How many different colors are there? Practice using the squeezer to pick up the acorns. Take turns flicking the spinner. Getting a good grasp on what’s in the box and how the pieces all fit together will make the game play a lot easier.
Skills For Life: Flicking a spinner may not seem like that big of a deal, but this hard to master skill (especially for a toddler) will serve your child well in the future when they’re sitting across the table from you getting ready to play Montana for the first time, a worker placement game that predominantly features a spinner.
Playing the Game
To start playing the game, all the acorns are dumped inside the box and each player receives a tree stump. Then the spinner is set close by and a starting player is chosen and handed the Squirrel Squeezer.
Each player takes turns flicking the spinner and performing the action that the pointer lands on. Most of the actions will either have you collecting acorns (either of a specific color or 1 or 2 of your choosing). Grab the Squirrel Squeezer and use it to pick up the matching colored acorn from the box, then place it into the matching color-ringed hole in your stump. If you’re the first person to fill all the holes, you win the game.
The other actions are less friendly. One has you losing a turn. Another has you losing all the acorns you’ve already collected. The other lets you steal an acorn that you need from an opponent. If tasked with collecting a color you already have or performing an action you can’t perform, then you have to skip your turn. It’s as simple as that.
Skills For Life: Using the Squirrel Squeezer to pick up an acorn may seem easy on paper, but the manual dexterity needed to pull this off is something your child may struggle with. You’ll be glad they mastered these skills in the future when you’re rolling up your sleeves to play a game of Meeple Circus. In Meeple Circus, your manual dexterity and meeple stacking skills will be put to the test!
There’s an undeniable pleasure in playing The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel with my son. I never thought I’d find myself looking forward to playing a children’s game, but here we are. This is the reality I am living in. Would I anticipate our play sessions of the game if the components were changed? That is highly doubtful. The Squirrel Squeezer is like a magnet and I am but a poor piece of iron obeying its whims. When that little squirrel hits the table, I can’t help myself. I am just as drawn into the story of this crafty little rodent collecting acorns as my son is.
That last part is ultimately the most important. My son loves The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel and that affection he has for the game is infectious. Hardly a day goes by where he isn’t begging us to pull the game down off of the shelf where it’s perched. He enjoys fishing the acorns out of the box and putting them into his tree trunk. He’s on cloud nine when he’s flicking that spinner. I’m not surprised he likes the game as much as he does. It’s like playing a game while also playing with a toy. What is surprising is that it isn’t the actual game play that gives him issue, it’s the manipulation of the physical components.
My (almost) three year old son struggles with the spinner. He’s got the thumping motion down, but he often misses the plastic spinner part entirely or he flicks it in such a way that it almost immediately hits the bottom of his hand bringing it to a sudden stop before it’s even made half of a rotation. He also struggles with the Squirrel Squeezer. It takes a decent amount of hand-eye coordination to snag one of those acorns and then it takes some strength to keep the tongs squeezed together long enough to transfer the acorn to the tree stump. If you happen to pick up the acorn at an awkward angle there’s also some twisting and turning involved to get it to sit pointy-side-down in the stump. Bear this in mind if you’re thinking of buying this game. Younger children may need some help moving the pieces around.
Other than those slight foibles and the fact that the weirdly shaped box doesn’t fit on a shelf very well, I have nothing but praise for this game. The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel’s acorn acquisition antics have brought my household hours or joy and I’m sure it will do the same for yours.