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Rowboat Game Review by Melissa Cummings

Moosetache Games
2000 Hearst Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709

Looking at the compact box and the simple stack of cards it contains, you may be easily fooled--but beware: this is no ordinary card game. Pick up the thorough instruction booklet and you may be tempted to throw in the towel quickly, thinking this is a daunting, confusing game. But when you take the time to process the instructions, learn the rules, and play a practice hand or two, you will see that this is a game worthy of digging up and polishing into a family treasure.

With 61 playing cards that are thick and sturdy and the handy sand timer, you are armed for the task. There is built-in versatility in the game, in that while it is a bidding game, there is an option for a non-bidding, novice version of play. This would be especially great for incorporating slightly younger or less-experienced players. The suggested age of 13 and up is very reasonable, although there may be occasions where a mature, strategic, logical 11-year-old would fall in love with Rowboat as well. There is certainly no upper age limit, as teens and adults of all ages would find this game a fun challenge--even verging on addicting. The game is meant to be played with two to four players, but according to the Moosetache Games website, it can be adapted for more players for even further versatility. This is not something we have personally tried, but we may in the future. I confess that I prefer the two or three-person versions over the four-person version, as I like to be in control of my own cards; if you play with four people, you play in teams. Personally, I need to grow in my own skills of strategy with bidding and adapting my game plan when another player throws me a curve, so I am eager for more opportunities to practice and grow these skills.

The card designs and artwork are fun, unique, and beautifully artistic. Different cards, game steps, and rules even have fun seaworthy names like Tide, Knob, Lighthouse, Sandbags, Capsize, and--obviously--Rowboat. Even the card suits are nautical: Maps, Waves, Shells, and Oars. With some veins very similar to common card games like Bridge, Hearts, or Spades as well as features that are completely unique to Rowboat itself, this game proves that there is a trick around every bend and that calm waters can quickly become rough. You must be vigilant at all times and ready to amend the strategic course you have charted, depending on the tides and storms brewing around you.

On the Moosetache Games website, you can access truly helpful links to a ten-minute-long video tutorial as well as a list of frequently asked questions. The company also openly accepts questions via e-mail if you cannot find an answer to a question in the instruction booklet or the FAQs online. And should you tragically lose your instruction booklet, they are even happy to replace it for you! They truly seem like a great company that wants to encourage fun and creativity in new and unique ways.

For $15 (this is a great price for this entertaining and sure-to-be-loved card game) family game nights can up the ante in enjoyment, laughter, strategy, and surprise. In our home, we don't just enjoy the challenge of Rowboat, we also enjoy the fun and imagination it brings to our family game nights when we are spending time together.

Product review by Melissa Cummings, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2011