Full disclosure: A review copy of Turtle Splash! was provided by Lucky Duck Games.
I’ve been meaning to delve more into the Lucky Duck Kids line! I enjoy the odd kids’ game, just because they’re a fun way to see how tactile learning is making its way into early education and, more critically, they’re often very simple to learn and still pretty fun. My personal favorite, if you’re a longtime reader of the site, is ICECOOL, but I’ve got many favorites. There’s a lot to like! Naturally, I was interested in Turtle Splash, as it combines dexterity (one of my favorite mechanics) with memory (a mechanic that I like less, but can respect). Let’s see how it plays!
In Turtle Splash, you’re having a get-together at the watering hole, but Turtle is late again! You decide to play hide-and-seek while you wait for her, and she’ll splash the animals to surprise them a bit! The challenge is, which animals are hiding where? Only one way to find out! Will you be able to remember all of their hiding places?
Not too much to this one! First, you’ll want to assemble the ramp and lake:
You can leave the rails in or take them out for more challenging play. Next, give each player a player board:
You can also give each player three Beach Ball tokens, and they should set one on the leftmost side of each column. Set the Swim Ring tokens nearby:
Finally, shuffle up the Animal Tiles and create a 3×4 grid of them, face-down:
You should be ready to start!
Turtle Splash is a game aimed at younger folks (part of the Lucky Duck Kids line), so it’s not too hard to play. Let’s talk about it.
On a given turn, you’ll slide the turtle down the river, towards the lake. Where the turtle ends up determines what happens next! You’ll get to flip a number of tiles based on the turtle’s location:
- If the turtle does not reach the lake, you get to flip one tile.
- If the turtle reaches the light part of the lake, you get to flip two tiles.
- If the turtle reaches the center of the lake, you get to flip three tiles.
Note that if you’re between two locations, you get the better of the two. Next, flip the corresponding number of tiles, making sure they’re visible to all players. When you flip an animal tile, if the flipped tile matches the animal immediately to the right of any of your beach balls, you may advance the beach ball one space. You may do this each time you reveal a tile, so you can potentially advance as many times as you reveal tiles.
If you do not end up advancing at all, you get a Swim Ring! This lets you flip one additional tile next turn. Afterwards, your opponent takes their turn. Be sure to flip the revealed tiles down before then!
If any player manages to advance all their beach ball tokens to the end of their player board, that player wins!
Player Count Differences
Interestingly, I think the game gets a bit easier (and a bit more chaotic) with more players. As you increase the player count, more tiles are going to be flipped between your turns. This may mean that more players advance, but it also means you’ll get to see many more tiles between your turns at higher player counts. This can help you get a better sense of where the various animals are, without having to spend your turn searching fruitlessly for animals. Beyond that, there aren’t really a ton of player count differences. With more or fewer players, your turns are just about the same. You still flick the turtle down the ramp and flip tiles! It just means that there might be more eyes watching what you flip. Wouldn’t say I have a particularly strong preference for player count, though. The back-and-forth at two is entertaining, but I appreciate that the puzzle becomes a bit less complex with more people flipping tiles.
- There’s actually something to the idea of mildly flubbing a shot, from time to time. Sometimes, it can be helpful to not be the player taking the initiative for everything, especially when nobody knows what tiles are where. There’s an element of luck to you maybe flipping the correct tile, but, frankly, let them mess around while you figure out where everything goes. Granted, I’m just bad at hitting the turtle and pretending like that’s my strategy, but it’s okay. My reviews, my excuses. It’s part of the healing process.
- You may want to take a few practice shots before the game starts, otherwise you might end up overshooting or undershooting. This is the part that I always forget. It takes a surprising amount of force to knock the turtle where you want it go. I do still kind of mess it up from time to time. Starting off with some basic practice will help, a lot.
- It’s pretty critical to keep an eye on what your opponents are flipping. You need to see what they’re looking for and pay attention to the location of what they flipped. It is a memory game, after all. You need to know where everything is! Or, at least, try to keep in mind that you need to look for the next three animals on your player board. If you find all of those, you’re in good shape.
- Randomly guessing may do more harm than good, since you might end up revealing helpful information to your opponent. If you have no idea, there’s always just flubbing the shot and only flipping one thing. But, you’ve got a 1 in 12 chance of flipping a tile that helps you, (sometimes as high as 3 in 12). Worth considering!
- Try to avoid advancing one track all the way to the end, if you’re planning to routinely flip three animals per turn. I mean, there’s nothing particularly stopping you from getting one track to the end, but the most efficient advancement strategy is four perfect turns, each one you knocking the turtle into the center and then finding the three exact animals you need to advance. Good luck with that.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love a dexterity element! I think I’d really love it if there were alternate slides to up the difficulty, but hey, I’m fine with one. It’s fun to try and knock the turtle into the lake, even if I truly cannot pull it off with any frequency. I also appreciate that the dexterity element is just jarring enough that it makes it hard for me to remember all the tiles I’ve seen, which is funny.
- The memory element is fairly entertaining, as well. It’s funny in the sense that I’ve never quite figured out how to be good at it. It seems simple enough to remember twelve tiles and what’s underneath, but the tiles look just similar enough that I’m apparently not able to organize that information in my brain in a useful way, so I just end up sputtering and flipping the same tile multiple tiles to no avail.
- I think this game will be a hit with kids (and teach some good skills). I actually think there’s some physical learning that can happen here, and the dexterity component makes what would be an otherwise-rote memory game into something engaging and entertaining. I do wonder a bit about the gap between players based on dexterity skills, but I guess the Swim Ring helps bridge the gap (and you always get to flip one animal, every turn, so you’re never totally out).
- I appreciate that you can take the rails off the slide to make the game a bit more challenging. It still doesn’t mess with the skill floor of the game at all, but it does mean that particularly non-dexterous kids will just whack the turtle clean off of the slide, which sounds equally funny.
- The Swim Ring is a nice way to help players who are struggling with guessing. I really like that it just gives you a +1 on your next turn to make up for missing the animals to help you advance this turn. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a match, but it does increase the odds pretty significantly, which is nice. It’s a very pleasant and on-theme way to help. And we ended up needing it a lot; we are not particularly good at memory games.
- I also like that the player boards are all randomized. If they were the same, you’d just end up with players following each others’ turns; here, you’re often looking for completely different things (or trying to, at least), which encourages players to branch out at the start of the game to great effect.
- I appreciate that the back of the rulebook tells you what all the animals are. I just think that’s a nice touch! I learned something.
- The slide can be a bit wobbly, despite puzzle-piecing in, so keep an eye out for that. I’m not sure exactly why it doesn’t quite fit, but the intricacies of cardboard construction in games is a bit beyond me, I’ll admit. It doesn’t seem to lean at all; it’s just not the most stable of implements.
- There’s not really any useful way to catch up if you get too far behind. You effectively have you just hope that other players play poorly, which isn’t really anything particularly strategic. That said, this is also a short game aimed at younger players, so I’m not entirely convinced that that’s terrible. It can just be somewhat frustrating in the moment.
- Memory games can be hilariously frustrating for some players, so keep an eye out for that. Some players just have difficulty remembering in these sorts of games. This is the kind of thing that some players may feel stupid playing, if they’re not able to remember where things are. Try to empathize with your group somewhat and make sure you’re picking a game that resonates with your group.
Overall: 7 / 10
Overall, I think Turtle Splash is a cute game! Granted, it definitely is targeted at kids, and it makes that clear, but I still enjoyed my plays of it. I think Turtle Splash doesn’t quite clear the bar of games for kids that I enjoy because they still present something that is across-the-board entertaining for adults. To me, those aren’t really kids’ games at all; they’re family games that can be enjoyed by everyone. That said, I still found it fun! So did my groups. The combination of dexterity and memory is compelling, because it engages your brain in the perfect way for you to forget where everything is because you overfocused on hitting the turtle into the perfect spot. I swear, I played with a friend of mine and we both flipped the same tile easily ten times in one game because we swore we hadn’t checked that tile before. This is where the game will really engage its players; the delight and confusion of having to switch between two entirely different tasks in pursuit of some cute animals. I’d love to see more complex slides that you really have to try and hit a certain way to get the right number of flips, but that’s my love of ICECOOL talking, I think. For younger players, this is a great way to build up some fine motor control skills while also getting them to practice memory games (and, frankly, this system could be substituted for many other types of games or learning experiences, if you wanted to gamify them). It’s cute and pretty novel, and that’s a great place to be when making a game for kids. If you’re looking for something for your younger gamers, or you just love a cute memory game, consider Turtle Splash! I had fun trying it out.
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