Review: Smugglers Family Board Game

  • August 23, 2016
  • James Skemp
  • review

The following is a review of Smugglers, Family Board Game, provided to me as part of the Amazon Vine program.

Interesting, but slightly complex with components that may not last

First, I own and play quite a lot of games. But I played Smugglers with someone that I would consider fairly versed with games, and someone who is more into ‘classic’ games. I was also going to play this with a child aged near the bottom of the recommended age range, but haven’t had the chance yet, and might skip it based upon my experiences.

So with that in mind, Smugglers consists of putting one of three gems into a ball of putty and rolling it down a hill, hoping that it will not only go through the hole at the bottom, but will also be larger than every other ball that goes through. This dynamic, along with the possibility of not knowing what hole will be used in certain cases, adds an interesting dynamic to the game. It’s highly likely that people who play this on a regular basis will figure out how to size the balls for each hole, but for occasional play this shouldn’t be an issue. There are also a couple different win conditions, which does allow for a bit of strategy in the game.

Otherwise, for better or worse there’s a pretty extreme level of luck when it comes to the winner getting a possible bonus from ‘losing’ players, in that the putty can only contain one of three colored gems, and as the game progresses, one of two. This isn’t necessarily bad, but I wouldn’t consider this game to have much of a strategy, which I suppose is perfectly fine for the audience this is geared toward.

However, while the game is geared toward a younger audience, the components themselves, in particular the putty, will undoubtedly suffer from play. Even with adults the putty ended up getting stuck to the play surface (being outside didn’t help). In that particular case using the plastic bags the putty came in helped, but the very nature of putty means that it’ll stick and pick up various materials. It is putty, so it could definitely be replaced, but something to keep in mind, especially if leaving smaller children unsupervised.

Which brings me to the rules. Smugglers is definitely a game that would have benefited from a cheatsheet of some kind, whether that be a one-page summary of play or small cards. (Personally I would lean toward a one-page summary as the last page of the rules.) Putting this down in front of the demographic and expecting them to ‘figure it out’ could result in them playing with the putty, but not necessarily playing the game.

All that said, I’d have a hard time recommending Smugglers. The game has interesting game play, but is perhaps too complex for the target audience, and wouldn’t satisfy older players once the novelty wears off. Given that I might have bias, I give Smugglers 3 of 5 stars. Your mileage may vary.