Gary Gouda

You’re a mouse named Gary. Gary Gouda, to be precise. You live in a big box. It has 16 rooms. Some rooms have cheese in them. There are doors between the rooms. Some doors are too small for you to fit through. Especially if you have cheese with you. There’s a cat, too, sitting smugly in front of a doorway.

If you knew what a maze was, that’s probably what you’d think you lived in.

You start off in one of the corner rooms. Which corner is determined by the roll of what some might call a “rectangular prism,” and what others, including you, consider a “die rod.” It rolls like a rod, though. Not like a die. But it does have four sides, and each side is a different color, and each color stands for a different corner room. And then you try to get to another corner room – the one your die rod tells your player that you have to go to. And on the way, you try to pick up as much cheese as you can. And to do that, you have to, naturally, go through many doors. Some doors, though you can’t really tell until you try, are too small to fit through. Especially if you’re carrying a lot of cheese. And if you get stuck in a door, you have to give up all your cheese and let the next player tell you where to go.

And when you get to the room your die rod told your player to go to your player gets to keep the cheese. And the next player goes. Until almost all of the 24 pieces of cheese are gone. And, of course, the player with the most cheese wins.

It’s a hard life for a mouse. But for the players, it’s absorbing, challenging, surprising, and most definitely fun.

The game, like just about every game from Haba, is made to last and last. From the box (thick cardboard, the top fitting just tight enough to close snugly and yet loosely enough to open easily), to the room dividers (equally thick) and pieces (even thicker). The experience of playing is like, well, being a mouse in a maze. Only people are smarter than mice. And they can remember what doors the mouse couldn’t go through last time, and how many pieces of cheese it had when it got stuck. And they can control their cheesey greed and maybe not try to take so many pieces of cheese, because, like I said, the more pieces of cheese Gary has, the bigger the doorway Gary needs.

Then there are these plastic pieces that fit between the walls. They determine the size of the holes. And, because the players rearrange those plastic pieces at the start of each game, and also because you can’t really tell if Gary will fit through until you try, you always have a new maze to play in.

On your player’s turn, you get 4 pieces of cheese. You put each piece in the room that matches the symbol on its bottom. So you never know where your cheese will be (except for the pieces the player who went before you had to leave behind) until it’s your player’s turn. And then you and your player have to figure out the best route through the maze all over again.

Designed by Guida Hoffmann, with endearing art by Michael Schober, Gary Gouda is everything you’d want in a good family game: easy to learn, fun to play again and again, challenging, gently competitive with just enough luck to keep you laughing, even at yourself. Major Fun for 2-4 players or teams. A great family game. With pre-school players, or with players of ostensible seniority, it’s best to play in teams.

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