Every once in a while, you just take a punt. Will ‘Zombie Princess Slaughterthon’ be a good film? Will Funk/Grunge combo Puddle of Kool’s album be worth £2.99? How about that fish flavour popcorn you spotted at the local corner shop?
Well, this year my punt was a little yellow box called Rhino Hero. I don’t know why I went for it. The box art shows a cartoon superhero rhino like some random box of sugary cereal, and the gameplay description makes it clear this is a dexterity game, a genre I’m not typically find of. But I tell you what; I’m so glad I picked this up!
Gameplay wise, Rhino Hero is like Jenga with cards. Each player is dealt a hand of roof cards, which have a pattern on one side. Each turn, the active player must ‘build’ wall cards on the previous roof card,following this pattern. However, some of the roof cards have a special ability which force the next player to draw another roof card, change the direction of play or best of all, make the next player have to add the heavy wooden Rhino Hero meeple to the tower of cards.
That’s it! The whole game is stacking wall and roof cards, moving the chubby protagonist and keeping a steady hand. The objective is to either offload all your cards first or have the least in hand when the tower invariably collapses.
So why is this game stuffed into my bag every game night? Well, it’s one of those rare designs of the perfect filler and the age-gap leveller. You can play RH with anyone with it’s simple ruleset, and can be played by anyone who can grasp it; the cards have no writing on them and the symbols used for the special roof cards is so intuitive you’ll not need more than a couple of ganders at the rulebook. It’s play time is also only about five minutes, including set up and takedown.
The downside to this simplicity? The game has no balance in terms of the roof cards received at the beginning of the game. If you’re dealt a hand of non-special roof cards, you’re basically screwed because the tie breaker for players with the same number of cards at the end of a game is who has the most special roof cards left. Other situations can also arise where the direction of play is changed so often that you’ll never get a turn before the game is over. Luckily the play time is so short you can always get revenge in the same evening.
The artwork is… fine. It’s simple and cartoony to fit in with the family-friendly nature of the game. The card stock is incredibly robust as you would expect when they need to take the beating they do. The symbols are now starting to rub away, however this is after a great deal of playtime so I can’t really complain about natural wear and tear.
Images from http://www.habausa.com/rhino-hero.html