If you’re going to do one thing, you’d better do it well. Master Fox exists in what can only be described as the “feeling around in a bag” genre of dexterity games, and this one doesn’t stray too far from the formula. Here, players simultaneously reach into a pile of wooden animal pawns, hoping to pull out those that match the current round objectives. Oh, and everyone has to wear a fox mask. Trust me, it’s cool.
Gameplay here is simple. There are eight different types of animals in Master Fox, three of which make up each rounds set of objectives (selected by drawing from a deck). While blindfolded with a fox mask, and using only one hand, each player can take up to four animal pawns. However, selecting the right pawns while fumbling over the other players’ hands is not as easy as it sounds.
Once the blindfolds are off, players compare results. Objective-matching pawns earn a point, while duplicates and mismatches deduce one. Play continues until 10 points are earned by the winning player, but along the way, a few bonus animals will be added to the mix (foxes that are always worth a point, snakes that allow you to steal from another player, and a hammer that prevents such theft).
Much like Loopin’ Louie or the more recent Rhino Hero, Master Fox is a children’s game destined to be enjoyed by older gamers just as much as its younger intended audience. And while it doesn’t quite Jungle Speed levels of competitive grabbing, there is surely still plenty of tension in this game.
What makes Master Fox work is that the tension naturally increases as rounds progress. Once a player has collected at least three (of their maximum four) animal pawns, they can call the round to an end at any time. As the threat of early-ending rounds continues to loom, and newly-added bonus pawns give players even more to think about in the rush to grab pawns, you may find a bead of sweat forming under that fox mask after all.
Although it may sport an “Ages 7+” label on the box, Master Fox makes for an excellent addition to the collections of gamers as young as age 5. This is not only because the core mechanic of the game is simple and intuitive, but because young players are likely to already be familiar with it. For example, Gamewright’s Go Away Monster is a staple among introductory board games, introducing players age 3 and up to the bag mechanic in a more relaxed co-op setting. Master Fox succeeds because it builds upon these past gaming experiences while adding the proper amount of challenge to the mix.
It will likely take until the advertised age 7+ before a kid can break out a surprise Master Fox win against a parent, but since the game is perfectly enjoyable in these earlier years, the game will have a long and happy life on our shelf. Besides, you might break it out after the kid falls asleep, too.