Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Future Nerds, part 3: Unexploded Cow from Cheapass Games

(The third in an irregular series of reviews based on kid-friendly games for our gamer parents out there, like me.)

My daughter has aged a bit since I started the Future Nerd review series nearly two years ago (how’s that for irregular), and as a result, her gaming potential has expanded a little.  Most recently, this led to my purchase of Unexploded Cow, a fun, fast, surprisingly deep, and super easy-to-learn treat from Cheapass Games.

Our LGS started carrying a much wider range of board games this year and as a result, my interest in board games has been correspondingly re-ignited.  I’ve always been a fan of board games since before I could roll the dice (thanks, Candy Land) and my 8-year old daughter is a chip off the old block.  Her reading aptitude has skyrocketed in 2nd grade and I found that Unexploded Cow brought a lot to the table.

Let me preface my review with a quick summary of the game:

Europe. Summer. 1997. You and your friends have discovered two problems with a common solution: mad cows in England and unexploded bombs in France.  You've decided to bring these two powderkegs together just to see what happens. And you wouldn't say "no" to a little money on the side.  So round up your herd, march them through France, and set them loose behind the Cordon Rouge. If you're lucky you'll come home rich before Greenpeace figures out what you're up to.  Either way, there's something magical about blowing up cows.  (Oh, and btw… Unexploded Cow is one of the most popular Cheapass Games ever.)

There are three things I like about Unexploded Cow outside of the fact that it is quite a bit of fun:

First, there is a moderate amount of reading, which is nice for a new reader.  Not as intensive as say Magic the Gathering, but it requires the player to read and then strategize about how that card is going to help them.  Constructive thinking.

Second, money is required to add cows to your heard (so that you can subsequently blow them up on your bomb roll at the end of your turn), which means not only is there some elementary math requirements, but it also teaches the basics of the value of a dollar (or franc, in this case).  You want to add that cow with the big 800 franc payoff to your herd?  That’s going to cost you more than the one with the 400 franc reward.  Financial skills.

Third, well, that’s hard to define… a game like this is the perfect storm of qualities that makes it a great progression from the first two games in my Future Nerd series, the simple dungeon crawls from the Lego Heroica line.  It takes those basic game mechanics that work for a 6 year old and grows them just enough to not go over their head, but challenge them at the same time.  Reading, math, money, strategy, and not Warhammer level of strategy.  Just enough to make a kid think while keeping parents on their toes too.  Total package.

And heck, they even threw in a dice.  So, you’ve got cards, money, and dice.  Now, I didn’t get into the rules much, but basically you play cows from your hand into your herd in front of you and blow them up with a dice roll at the end of your turn.  The strategy comes from the various cows with special rules and event cards that can drastically change the course of a player turn.  Oh, and there are city cards to be won that can give you even more benefits.  How bad do you want to win that city and gain those benefits?  Well, that may determine the way you play out your turn and where you place your cows in your herd…

Okay, I’m getting off track a little.  Unexploded Cow was a fine investment of $25.  We are planning to play with Mom too this Thursday.  We played a truncated game last night and she won, so of course is ready to play again ASAP lol.  Get your youngster to read, do some math, think constructively, all while having fun blowing up cows.  Which, now that I read that, may sound a bit violent?  However, all the artwork is very cartoony and there are no actual “bombs” in the game.  Heck, if you’re one of those parents, you could treat them like they’re going on vacation instead of blowing up.  Be creative!  But most of all, this is a great way to engage your kids and get the whole family involved.

The topic for Part 4 will be Zombie Dice and the expansion pack “sequel”, another fun purchase I made thanks to Tabletop Game Day at Gamers Sanctuary.  See you then!


  1. I'm pretty sure I want to play that game.

  2. I'd like to get in some occassional board/card gaming in. This game, Relic, Adam has a couple great looking games, and Mike has a library of cool stuff.

  3. I really want to try "Smash Up". Seems really cool.