MaxxGrade Level: Primary

Players: 1 to 8

Time: 20 minutes

Games today come with bits. Shiny bits, wooden bits, chits and meeples, animeeples… We see the big box and the eye candy inside and we think, wow this has to be a great game. Sometime it is, but strip away the frills and flair and you are still left with a game.

Max is a simple, frill-free primary level game by Family Pastimes, a company that focuses on cooperative games. Unlike traditional roll and move games for children, where the players move their tokens and accept what fate awaits on each square as they race for the goal, players in Max work together to move three animals to safety before they are caught by Max the cat.

The game itself is quick to pick up and resembles a very elementary game but what sets it apart are the decisions needed to succeed. Each player rolls a pair of dice that feature both green and black dots. Green dots allow the player to move one of three wild animals toward the safety of the tree while the black advance Max. If players try to compete, with each focusing on moving one of the animals, they are very unlikely to advance very far. Instead, after each roll they will need to discuss and decide which animals would be the best choice to move in their attempts to escape from Max. This level of game play and need for cooperative dialog is a rare find among traditional children’s games.

Max uses a very simplistic game format to engage young children in the use of strategy. It asks them to work together to compromise and balance their choices. And it also introduces the concept of winning despite suffering a loss. Take that Candy Land!