Full disclosure: A review copy of Go Cuckoo! was provided by HABA.
Another HABA game! I think I’m starting to hit the end of the trail with these bad boys; Miyabi is up next and then I think I’m pretty much spent. But why not enjoy the time we still have? Plus, it’s nice that I managed to finish out the year with HABA titles (and the month with Oink titles). It gives a nice sense of completion, right? Either way, let’s get into it.
In Go Cuckoo!, players work to help Kiki Cuckoo build a nest for her eggs. Plant sticks and, you know, do general egg-laying things to try and build a fantastic home for this bird and her bird babies. Your opponents are helping, too, but they’re not nearly as good at it as you are. In fact, they seem almost intentionally bad at it? But you try not to dwell on that too much. Will you be able to build the best nest? Or will your nest effort not be enough?
Pretty much none. Divide the eggs equally:
Set aside Kiki Cuckoo:
Take the sticks:
Make them into a column and place them into the bottom of the game’s can. They should spiral out and make a suitable sorta structure. You’re basically ready to start!
This is also pretty easy. So the game is essentially a race to dump your eggs into Kiki Cuckoo’s nest so that she can start raising a family. So that’s a premise. First one to do so, wins!
On your turn, you’re going to help build that nest. Draw a stick out from the can. If the color of both ends is the same, you’re done! If not, draw a stick with a top color matching the bottom color of the stick you pulled previously. If the color of both ends is the same this time, you’re done! If not, try one more time and then end your turn.
If you successfully pulled a stick with the same color on both ends at any point during your turn, you did well! If not, well, tough. Either way, place the stick(s) you pulled this turn onto the nest structure horizontally to start helping to construct that nest. Then, if you were successful, add the egg on top of the structure. If you weren’t successful, your turn then ends. Note that the sticks may be placed on the inside or outside of the structure; however you build your nest.
If, at any point, you knock a stick out of the nest, you need to replace it and your turn then ends immediately. If you knock one or more eggs out of the nest, if it lands inside the can you must take an egg as penalty from the player with the most eggs. If they land outside of the can you must take the ones that landed outside the can as a penalty.
Play until one player has played all their eggs. On their next turn, instead of drawing sticks, they must just place Kiki Cuckoo on top of the nest. If they can, successfully, they win!
Player Count Differences
Not really a ton of them, honestly; you just get fewer eggs personally and there’s more downtime where it’s not your turn. Those are never my favorite things to happen with player count scaling, so I tend to prefer this at lower player counts. To be fair, that’s also kind of ideal; it means that the game generally takes the same amount of time at various player counts since you always play the same number of eggs, but it’s also just more fun when you have more to do, in my opinion. I wouldn’t say I dislike it at higher player counts; I just tend to play it more at two because I like having more turns in a particular game, all things being equal.
- You only need to take care of yourself. I think there’s something to this idea in a lot of dexterity games, personally. As the stack grows higher and more precarious, you don’t necessarily need to commit to the idea of building a very stable structure that will support all the eggs dropped by every player in perpetuity. This is even less critical in games where you’re playing with a lot of players, since you can kind of just make a disaster structure and leave it to every subsequent player to figure it out. In a two-player game, structural integrity becomes much more important because it’s your turn much more frequently. Either way, though, you don’t need to invest too much in making sure the whole thing won’t come apart as soon as someone else places on it, since your opponent always will first.
- Watch out for load-bearing sticks. This is particularly challenging, because sometimes sticks are balance points for eggs that you don’t notice, or they take on the load of nearby sticks and don’t seem like they do until you pull something out and the whole structure collapses. Just be careful. That said, if you can trick your opponents into pulling on one by making it look stable, well, that’s just some straight money, there.
- If you don’t pull a stick that lets you place an egg, don’t place them such that other players will be able to place eggs more easily. If you can’t be happy, nobody can, right? That seems like a healthy way to respond to things. But either way, you shouldn’t necessarily try and reinforce the structure if you’re not going to reap the benefits of doing so. Since you place an egg on your turn before an opponent, placing them in a smart way makes sense, but if you can’t place the egg then feel free to place them in as haphazard of a way as possible. It’s spiteful, but efficient!
- You can build on the outside of the structure, if you want. This is a pretty interesting move, since it allows you to place eggs even more dangerously, if you so choose. Personally, I don’t do much of it until we near the end of the game, but that’s because I tend to play at lower player counts and I worry about it backfiring on me. It is definitely the most unstable configuration possible, so, I wouldn’t recommend trying it if you don’t know what you’re doing. Honestly, even if you do know what you’re doing, I’d still probably recommend only doing that in an emergency?
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Egg? Not sure on this one. For some reason, whenever a player placed an egg successfully, everyone at the table would yell, “EGG!”, so, now that’s a thing we do every time for this game. It makes the experience a lot more entertaining and a bit less competitive, so I’m kind of all for it, but it’s definitely a weird thing to be writing in a review.
- Very whimsical. As any good dexterity game should be, this one doesn’t particularly take itself very seriously and that’s to all of our benefit. I mean, the eggs help a lot.
- I appreciate how simple it is to set up. You just divide the eggs equally and then put the sticks in the bottom. It basically has no setup requirements whatsoever, and that makes the game really easy to start playing.
- Very simple to teach, also. The only particular things are what happens if you knock over an egg or a stick, and even those aren’t too bad. Beyond that, it’s just pull at most three sticks to see if you can take one that’s the same color on both ends; it’s not that much overhead.
- Mechanically, the means by which you determine whether or not you can place an egg is interesting. I like being forced to take the next color and not knowing what the correct stick to draw is. I think that’s a nice and quick little way to play the dexterity element.
- The clustering of the nest as the game progresses is also very cool. It’s another one of those very visual dexterity games, and I’m super into those. Catch the Moon is still my favorite, but I’m gonna give this game credit for also being very visually striking.
- I was going to complain about the tube shape, but it DOES come with an actual box to hold the tube, so I’m neutral. I usually hate games in tubes, though, to be fair. The box helps somewhat, but it’s still a very weird shape, even for a box. But what can you do?
- Sufficiently bad luck is going to make this game a bit frustrating. Thankfully, it probably won’t happen that much, but having a turn where you don’t get to place eggs happen more than once is kind of annoying.
- Additionally, the lack of a catch-up mechanism means that once you do poorly enough, you’re just out. If you knock a ton of eggs out of the nest, it’s basically game over, since you take all of them. It would be nice to have some method by which you’re not entirely (effectively) eliminated, but who knows. Oh well, the game’s short enough that it doesn’t matter too much, but I still prefer games with stronger catch-up mechanisms.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, though, I quite enjoy Go Cuckoo! I think it’s got some functional similarities to a lot of stacking games, but I enjoy the twist of having to place much heavier objects on small rotatey sticks. I think the larger scale of, say, Rhino Hero: Super Battle impresses me a bit more, but this one has the portability going for it as an additional bonus, which I appreciate. I think, generally, I’m a sucker for most stacking and dexterity games, so, I’m obviously going to be stoked about this one. I wonder about it as a family game, though, since it kind of requires a finer-tuned dexterity than, say, Catch the Moon or Animal upon Animal: Crest Climbers in order to make progress in the game. Someone with less refined motor control could very easily knock down the structure since it’s definitely on the more precarious side, and I’m trying to decide how I feel about it. That said, I think it’s still a great family game, albeit one that’s a bit messier than other games (those eggs can roll, my friends), and it’s a great way to learn simple stacking game mechanics. If that’s your favorite thing (it is one of mine), then I’d recommend checking out Go Cuckooo! I’ve certainly had a lot of fun with it.