First of all, just saying “Gulo Gulo” is fun. Especially if you’re a kid. In addition, there are the six little, kid-appealing, bear-like playing pieces. And the funny illustrations on the 23 thick, octagonal tiles you use to make the board. And the 22 colorful (five colors) wooden eggs with the wooden bowl you put the eggs into and the wacky “alarm pole” that you stick into the egg pile. And the velvet drawstring for eggs and bowl storage. All in all, everything looking like fun.
Then there’s getting the game ready, which is also kind of fun. There’s no board. Instead, you make a track out of all those lovely octagons (first you have to find the Gulo Junior tile, and set it aside). This is also kind of fun because there are at least four different edges you can use in connecting the octagons. And you put them face down, which makes you wonder what color they’ll be when you turn them over. And just before you finish the track, you take the last four tiles, add the Gulo Junior tile, shuffle them, and place them face down as the last space on the track leading up to the wooden bowl nest. And either now or sometime before, you also put all the eggs into the nest, and stick the alarm pole deep into the eggs so it’s as close to standing straight up as you can make it (this itself is challenging, and especially fun in retrospect).
Then there’s the game. You start at one end of the track (the stack of 5 track pieces and the nest are at the other end). You turn over the first tile. That tile has a color. You “steal” the egg of the same color from the nest. Did you set off the egg alarm (make the pole fall)? No? Good. Now you can move your Gulo on to that tile. The next player can either steal an egg of the same color, or turn over the next tile, and try to steal the egg of that color. As the game continues, the players who are still closest to the start have the most choices – since they can move to any tile that has already been turned over and is the same color as the tile they are already on. Some of the eggs are smaller. They are harder to remove (especially for those of us who are fat-of-finger). Some of the eggs are larger. They are easier to remove, but also are more likely to cause the pole to fall. The player who reaches the last tile without triggering the egg alarm draws tiles from the tile pile. If she draws any tile but the Gulo Junior, she has to remove another egg. If she manages to free the Gulo Junior, she has to steal the purple egg. And if she manages to do that, without, and the alarm pole is still in the nest, she wins.
Recall the observation about the fat-of-finger. Compare the finger width of a 5-year-old to that of a 30-year-old. That explains why Gulo Gulo is such an excellent family game – it is one of the few children’s games in which adults are actually at a disadvantage – just enough of a disadvantage to make playing with a 5-year-old a meaningful challenge.
Brought to the US by Rio Grande Games, Gulo Gulo was designed by Hans Raggan, Jürgen P. Grunau and Wolfgang Kramer (with noteworthy art by Victor Boden). Gulo Gulo has lasting play value, especially for families with children between the ages of 3 and 7. The design keeps everyone involved. Because of the increasing number of tiles that get exposed during the game, players who are behind have a good chance to leap forward, while players who are furthest ahead and set off the egg alarm have to move all the way back to the nearest tile of the same color. The game is easy enough to learn, at least to start. And the rest of the rules become clearer as the game progresses. And if not, don’t worry. The mechanics of the game are fun enough and strong enough to keep the game fun, even if you don’t use all of the rules. And if the game still proves too challenging, there’s a set of easier rules for younger children. And for those adults who are terminally thick of finger, consider asking your kids for help.