In southern Ontario the leaves are changing colour, the temperature is dropping and the promise of winter being right around the corner is present in the air. It is decidedly not picnic weather. That being said it’s a perfectly good time of year to play some board games. Problem Picnic: Attack of the Ants is the second title from Kids Table Board Games and it fits perfectly with their philosophy of producing kids games that can be equally enjoyed by adults.
Kids Table was started by Helaina Cappel, a teacher, mother, and board game fan who found that the vast majority of kids games on the market didn’t really appeal to her as a gamer. She set out to design and publish games that her kids or students could play, but would also be a fun experience for her too. Partnering with her husband, Josh, who is also a game designer and artist, they came out with Food Fighters last year. It was critically praised as an accessible game that would be fun, no matter your skill level. It went on to be named as a Mensa Select game. Problem Picnic designed by Scott Almes is the second title in their line.
Problem Picnic is a strategic, dexterity game where 2-4 players take on the role of a colony of ants looking to ruin someone’s outdoor buffet. Over the course of six rounds players will toss dice representing Scout, Worker, and Soldier ants and try to claim various different coloured plates of sandwiches, cookies, and watermelons off a blanket. The value of the food collected is determined by scoring cards that are selected randomly at the start of the game.
Each player starts with an army of ant dice with different numbers of ants on the faces. On a turn, they’ll roll one of their dice and try and land on one of the plate tiles that make up the picnic blanket. The round continues until everyone is out of dice. Then players divvy up the spoils of the picnic with the person with the most ants showing on top of each tile taking them back to their anthill. Once a plate of food has been claimed, players have to add it to their colony by flipping the tile over and laying it over one of their previously claimed food tiles.
If your ants didn’t land on anything or didn’t win the tile they were on, they’re returned to you to use next round. However successful ants sit out a round on the puddle card. It’s good to win tiles, but you’ll have less to work with next round.
Speaking of Rounds in every one but the first, the player who has acquired the least tiles in their colony gets to draw a Round card. It’s usually some advantage that can be used at a later time, like the Honey Drip that allows you to slide a missed die into a better position, or the Flying Ants that count as ants in your favour for every tile you’re able to toss it on. The Round deck doubles as a timer for the game as well. When the last card is drawn you’re entering the final round.
The scoring in Problem Picnic is really fun. At the start of the game, random scoring cards for different sets of foods or anthill designs are added based on the number of players. There is a also standard card that awards points for different individual foods and coloured plates. After the cards have been chosen point values are assigned by randomly adding scoring tokens to the cards. Collecting the most purple plates might be worth 7 points and the most green plates might be worth only 4 points. I love how this scoring system works, because due to the randomness you’ll have to come up with a new strategy for every game you play. Because players are awarded for not only having certain things in their anthill at the end of the game, but also where those items are placed, you also have to think about the layout of the food you gather over the course of the game.
I am not great at dexterity games, but I still enjoy playing them, and I really enjoyed Problem Picnic. It is totally successful in creating a game that kids will love playing, but where adults can appreciate a different layer of strategy (without having any notable advantage). On its face, players are tossing dice trying to claim tiles. When you add in Round cards, variable scoring, and the puzzle of putting together your anthill, there is a lot of fun decisions and opportunities for strategies hiding under the surface. None of those strategies are too deep and kids will pick them up surprisingly fast.
This is a game that will definitely be a hit in any household with kids, but even gaming sessions with just adults will have a great time with Problem Picnic. Hey, why should kids have all the fun? Problem Picnic is in its final two weeks of a Kickstarter campaign and it’s almost fully funded. Anyone who is looking for a game that they can have as much fun playing as their kids should definitely check out their Kickstarter and consider supporting it.