The German toy company HABA (short for Habermaaß) has been a major player in children’s toys for nearly 80 years, thanks to their stated devotion to the “healthy development of children” and the high quality wooden components of their toys. Their board game division is a tad younger, beginning in the 80’s with Orchard debuting in 1986. Until recently, their focus for board game production remained in the under 10 demographic. But they’ve begun to respond to the growing demand for board games from older age groups, with games like Adventureland and Iquazú being released that incorporate more complicated and competitive gameplay than previous titles. One such game, Karuba, was even nominated for Game of the Year at the 2016 Spiel des Jahres in HABA’s homeland of Germany.
I got a chance to meet with HABA (well, their US branch) at GenCon, where I was shown around a booth packed with excited children and exhausted parents. I got to check out three games, two games for older players and one that, while intended for toddlers, doesn’t make a half-bad bar game.
One of the most popular releases at GenCon was Honga, created by the prolific Gunter Burkhardt (Dragon’s Breath, Seeland) as a gateway game to resource management. Set in prehistoric times, players take control of a tribe of cave people trying to survive the dangerous world around them. Your action cards determine how many things you can do each round, changing based on a little wheel that rotates as the game goes on. They can lure mammoths into their herd, use resources to trade with other tribes, and give offerings to their ancient deities. But there’s someone else that they have to pay homage to: Honga, the grumpy (and hungry) saber-toothed cat after whom the game is named. One of your action points must be devoted to feeding Honga each turn. If you don’t, he’ll come into your camp and steal your food. You can take precautions against this however, by building up extra resources and, in my favorite mechanic of the game, sticking excess mammoths in the freezer for later. Honga has a really colorful and cartoony style provided by artist Stephanie Böhm ( Iquazú, Luxantis), as well as lots of the little wooden components that are HABA’s trademark, like mammoths, a tusk, and Honga himself.
You can pick up Honga on the HABA shop. HABA also encourages you to shop local with a store finder that can help you find a HABA retailer near you.
Another collaboration with Italian designer Carlo Rossi (Arkham Horror: Final Hour, Alchemist) is a game for the Alpinist in all of us. Aimed at the same age group as Honga, Mountains is a little more “mature” in its presentation, with Michael Menzel’s illustrations looking more like a scenic postcard than a cartoon. The game is a pretty simple betting game with a little bit of Go Fish thrown in. Each player is trying to go on a hike, but you can’t go into the wild without the correct equipment. You may have gotten lucky and had the necessary gear in your hand, but you also may not. Luckily, there’s a good chance your fellow campers do, and you can borrow the equipment you need from them in exchange for a favor stone (this game’s main currency). When you complete that day’s hike, you get rewards based on the hike’s difficulty. Easier hikes that need less equipment will earn a couple stones, while more difficult hikes that need more equipment get you a decent amount. The most coveted reward is a summit stamp, a red ink stamp on your summit book showing your mountaineering prowess. This is done with an actual stamp and pad of ink that comes with the game, adding a fun little bit of interaction to the game. At the end of the game, which takes place over four seasons, the player who has the most summit stamps wins!
We were lucky enough to get a review copy of Mountains from HABA, and I’ll have a full review of it here very soon! If you can’t wait and already want to start mountaineering, you can pick up the game at the HABA shop or use the store finder!
Animal Upon Animal: Small And Yet Great!
This one wasn’t necessarily a “planned” showcase for me at GenCon, but I still got to check it out and mess around a bit while I was waiting…and it was pretty fun. The Animal to Animal series are a part of HABA’s line of Dexterity games that require quick hands and careful thinking rather than more traditional board game action. Each game is centered around big chunky wooden animals that players have to stack in a certain amount of time, with the amount of animals stacked decided by a die. Small And Yet Great takes the basic game and shrinks it down, making the pieces only an inch long (two inches in the case of the alligator) and resulting in a travel-sized version of the game. It really embodies the way HABA approaches its children’s game. Yeah, they’re for little kids (this game aimed at the kindergarten set), but that doesn’t mean they have to make adults want to die while playing them. In fact, I have it on good authority that this game is actually incredibly fun when out at the bars, especially when everyone has had a few. The image of a bunch of inebriated adults trying to put a duck on top of a hedgehog might actually be worth the price of admission.
There’s obviously WAY more games on offer from HABA, especially for you readers who might be parents or aunties/uncles looking for something to play with your little ones. You can check out their whole catalog on their website. Big thanks to everyone at HABA USA for showing me around the booth, and be sure to stay tuned for more news and reviews as HABA continues to develop its stake in the hobbyist market.
All Images via HABA USA