Gulo Gulo

Designer: Jurgen Grunau, Wolfgang Kramer, Hans Raggan

Artist: Victor Boden

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

I thought wolverines are pretty mean and nasty animals? After all, there is an X-men named after it. (Photo credits: Andreo@BGG)

Did you know that Wolfgang Kramer shares partial designer credits for this game? I didn’t. At least not until I purchased the game. It’s surprising since I cannot recall a single kids game Kramer has designed. The first designer listed on the game, Jurgen Grunau has also designed another good kids game, Giro Galoppo. Still, Gulo Gulo is a pretty well regarded kids game that was out of print for a very long time. It was eventually reprinted by HABA and retitled as Pharaoh’s Gulo Gulo which kinda doesn’t make sense since Gulo Gulo is the scientific name for Wolverines. Last I checked, them pharaohs like cats, but not too hot on the wolverines. Perhaps they should have rethemed this, Pharaoh’s Crocodiles.

In the original game, players assemble a modular track consisting of face down tiles of different colors. At the end of the track is a stack of similarly colored tiles with one unique purple Gulo Gulo Jr. tile shuffled into the stack.

Each turn, player can choose to flip a tile and advance or choose a previously flipped tile to advance. The color of the tile matters because advancement , is contingent upon successfully picking up a slippery wooden egg of the same color that matches the tile. The eggs are smooth, shiny and a bunch of them are all poured into a small wooden bowl. These eggs are quite small for adult fingers to grip, but perfect for kids. Eggs come in four colors: blue, red, green and yellow. The colors also denote size with blue being largest and green smallest. Buried among all these eggs is one single purple egg which must be fished out to win the game when the purple tile is flipped.

Picking eggs from the bowl is not as easy as it sounds. Apart from the fact that they are slippery and small, there is also an alarm stick buried in the middle of the bowl. This alarm stick is top heavy and will easily tilt without any support around it. So eggs piled randomly around the stick will form a transient support structure to prop up the stick. Of course, as eggs are removed from the bowl, the stick will lose its support and at some point, it will collapse. If that happens, the player is prevented from advancing and is instead penalized by moving his Gulo Gulo backwards to the nearest tile of the same color. All eggs are then poured into the bowl and the alarm stick is repositioned in the center for the next player.

As players slowly inch forward on the track, they will eventually reach the stack of tiles. Once at the stack, players can flip a tile to find Junior. For every regular tile that is flipped, players will move the Gulo Gulo ahead one step each time in order to deplete the stack. They can keep doing this as long as they are successful in picking up the appropriately colored egg. Eventually, the purple Gulo Gulo Jr. tile will be revealed and the active player must pick up the single purple egg in the bowl. If successful, the game is won.

Gulo Gulo is one of top dexterity games for one reason: it is a game that kids are better than adults at playing it. It helps that they have small fingers to carefully remove the egg from the bowl. Adults will create a lot of movement when their fingers dip into the bowl, potentially tilting the alarm stick. For this reason alone, I think Gulo Gulo has gained a reputation for being a good game that kids can excel and that parents do not find it boring to play. It’s a good filler but I don’t know if it is something I would necessarily play with adults. At least with sober adults.

Final word: Average (me); Good (family)

Kids Corner

6 years 6 months: I started the game when my kid was 3-4ish. She was already able to play it then without any issues. At 6 plus, the game still comes out occasionally and it is still fun every time it hits the table. My fingers are still fatter than my kid’s fingers and so, she still has an advantage. It’s so effortless for them to pull out any egg that the game almost seems unfair. Adults can still win though, but our margin for error is much smaller and the stars (I mean eggs) have to align. Silly fun and good fun means the game still remains in her closet.

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