GAME REVIEW: Crab Stack

Crab Stack was released back in April of this year by Blue Orange games.  It plays 2-4 players and takes about 10-15 minutes.  I think it says the age range is from 8 and up on the box, but I think it could be played with kids a little younger as well.  But don’t let that fool you, because I believe there’s enough strategy and depth to engage adults too.

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In this game, the players control a group of crabs (colored wooden circular pieces with stickers of cute crabs on them) .  Each group contains 3 different sizes of grabs (Large, Medium, and Small).  All of the crab pieces are randomly placed on the hexagon shaped board, each on its own rock.  The object of the game is to be the last player to be able to perform a legal move (or last crab standing).

What is sort of a mix between checkers and a light area control game, the players are allowed to move one crab on their turn.  Each sized grab have stars on their piece which tells you how many movements they can make.  The Large crabs can move 1 space, the medium crabs can move 2 spaces, and the small crabs can move 3 spaces.  On their turn, a player will choose one of their crabs and move it onto an opponents (or even their own) piece.  The catch is, a crab can only end their turn on another crab of equal or lesser size.  For example: A large crab can be on top of any piece, a medium crab can be on top of a medium and a small piece, and a small crab can only be on a small piece.  You can move past any sized crab on your turn, but you have to end your turn on a crab that is of equal size or less.

Then to spice things up, there’s the wave mechanism.  This is a pretty nifty mechanic that can be frustrating at times. At the beginning of the game, all of the crabs make up one big group.  As the crabs move, spaces on the board will open up leaving gaps.  If at any point there ends up being 2 groups of crabs instead of one big group, then all of the pieces within the smaller group are removed from the game (representing a wave taking the crabs out).  It’s tricky when to use this wave effect to your advantage.  I have, many times, accidentally triggered this effect, sometimes wiping out all of my crabs.  haha.

And that’s pretty much the game.  This is a light strategy game that is easy to learn, but offers plenty of strategic decisions throughout the game’s short play time.  It’s one of those games that you might want to play a few times in a row since it doesn’t take very long (and you might want to get revenge on your opponent for beating you).

The one negative thing about the game that I found (and it’s a fairly minor one), is that every once in a while, towards the end of a game, it locks itself into an endless loop of crabs going back and forth on top of each other, resulting in a draw.  If that’s the case, it’s not much of a problem to begin the game again.  This isn’t really an issue since the game is so short, but still it might turn some people off from it.

Other than that, I think it’s an enjoyable game.  I think it’s a great game to introduce younger kids (6-10) into confrontational strategy games.  Despite the cute “kiddie” artwork, this can be an aggresive game, but I would still call this an entry-level game.  If you want to get your kids ready for Chess, this is a great start.  I play this with my 9-year-old nieces, and they love it.  I also held a tournament of this game for my middle school board game club, and it really took off.  It was a big hit.

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I would recommend this game if you have younger kids to play with.  Adults can enjoy this game too, though I prefer Battle Sheep, which is a similar light confrontational game that came out last year (also from Blue Orange).  Still, there’s plenty to enjoy here, and that wave mechanic is a lot of fun.

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