Balanko is such a straightforward invitation to fun that you almost don’t need to read the rules. There’s a ball on a string. There’s another ball that rides a curved track. There are pits of various score values – the center and widest pit being, naturally, both the easiest to get the ball into and of the lowest value. There are sliding scorekeepers to keep track of your achievements.

One player releases the rolling ball. The other player releases the swinging ball, hoping that the swinging ball will hit the rolling ball into a high scoring pit. The only other thing you might want to know, suggested-rule-wise, is that the ball-roller, sitting on the opposite side of the game, can try to catch the ball-swinger’s, uh, ball. Which is actually a good idea, given that if she doesn’t catch the swinging ball, and the rolling ball is still rolling, her opponent can try to catch it and again take yet another swing.

If nothing else happens, sooner or later the swinging ball is going to hit the rolling ball anyway. On the other hand, it could make the rolling ball go into either the ball-swinger’s or the ball-roller’s pit. So, if one player doesn’t catch it, the other player might consider it strategically sound to grab for the swinging ball as soon as it’s in range.

Setting it up is a bit less straightforward, but the instructions are clear, the steps few, and it is easy enough to do (once you rid yourself of certain expectations about how it “should” go together) that you won’t mind having to take it apart and put it back together. Though you’ll probably want to keep it assembled and ready to play with for-practically-ever.

We’ve given Balanko the coveted “Major Fun Family Game Award” because it is the kind of game that will be as much fun for kids as it will be for adults and probably even more fun for kids and adults together. For similar reasons, it’s also getting a Party Games award, even though only two people can play it at a time. And, if that’s not enough to interest you, you should know that it is being seriously considered a Keeper.

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