Tigris & Euphrates. Ra. Witchstone. Yellow & Yangtze.
Reiner Knizia has designed so many games that there is an outside chance he designed another game in the hour it took me to write this review. With more than 600 games to his credit, and probably thousands of other ideas that never made it to the table, Knizia is the most prolific game designer alive.
He’s also one of the best. In the last few years, Knizia has designed a couple of renowned family games, such as L.L.A.M.A and My City; add Turtle Mania (2022, Pegasus Spiele) to the list.
I played this game a half-dozen times over the course of two days, and our family loves it.
10 Minutes Is All You’ll Need
As I have said in countless other reviews, I love games that are easy to teach, offer lots of replayability, and are a blast to play. I’m surprised that it is rare to find games that check all these boxes, but Turtle Mania is officially on the list.
Players have a simple goal: end the game with the least number of turtles that have been pushed off of an island and into the ocean. Using a small cardboard island balanced between four light blue jetty pieces, a game of Turtle Mania begins with 8 plastic turtles placed on that island. The island is balanced over an ocean represented by the bottom of a large cardboard insert.
On a turn, players draw a new turtle from a bag—turtles are colored red, green, blue and yellow—and push it slowly into the island, ideally by not knocking any other turtles into the ocean during this action.
Then play passes to the left. Games of Turtle Mania start without any real drama, but the action heats up quickly. By the time 12-15 turtles are on that island, it gets very difficult to add a new turtle and NOT knock off any others.
If a player does push a turtle into the ocean, they take it into their supply; if the submerged turtle was yellow, that player takes another turn, which greatly increases the chances that someone will add more turtles to their collection quickly.
If a player ever adds 3 turtles of the same color, or 5 total between all colors, to their personal supply, the game ends and the player(s) with the least number of turtles wins the game.
Almost as Simple as Ra
Knizia nails this one by making things so easy. Turns are only 30-45 seconds each (even less early on), but each turn has real meaning as you dramatically watch a player add each turtle in the hopes of not knocking any off the island.
The production is perfect for a family game. These turtles are a sturdy, chunky plastic and they don’t fall into the “ocean” as easily as one might think. The box insert is perfect: the island comes off, and is inserted into the base of the game box. The rest of the platform, including the jetties, just flips over to keep the turtles locked underneath. And all the rules are on a single double-sided sheet.
I taught this to my kids and got playing within 3 minutes of setup, and teardown is a snap. Playtime on the box says 15-25 minutes, but even with our entire family of 4 at the table, this is a 15-minute game, max.
Turtle Mania comes highly recommended as a light dexterity game designed by one of the titans in the hobby. It has some of the elements that make games like Jenga so good: use your hands to do something just gentle enough to not disrupt the greater whole. My daughter couldn’t get enough of watching me try to push a blue turtle gently onto the island, only to fail and knock 2-3 other turtles into the ocean.
Then, on her turn, after assuring us all that this would “never happen” on her turn, just the opposite happened. She lowered her head in shame as turtles were added to her personal supply.
Fun stuff. Turtle Mania has plenty of it!