Family games can often pose challenges that are unique when you compare them to other gaming groups. With a gaming group, you usually select the members and thereby have commonality in tastes or skills. But most times, your family is sort of who you got stuck with. Depending on those personalities, that can be a good thing or a bad thing. That being said, playing games with my kids is one of the most rewarding things I get to do with them. The problem is I don’t love playing all games with every single one of my kids. One of those games is Cobra Paw by Bananagrams, Inc.
The issue with playing with who you are stuck with is that you often have misaligned talents and abilities. This can be wonderful in games where you can play off one another’s strengths. But in a game where a single attribute dominates, it can be disastrous.
Cobra Paw by Bananagrams, Inc.
Designer: Derek Weston
Artist(s): Laura Catasciato EDIT: Laura was the graphic designer and art director. The illustrations were drawn by an outside source.
Publisher: Bananagrams, Inc.
Prominent Mechanic(s): Dice Rolling/Pattern Recognition
For the record, I’d like to point out that it is a fun game. I just want you to steer clear of it if you plan to play it with a child who is even remotely prone to tantrums. This game is like a barometer to a child’s propensity towards aggression and how well he can handle setbacks. If your kid flips his lid quickly, as mine sometimes can, avoid this game.
If you believe that a particular aggressive child is an exception or that this particular game will be different. You’re wrong. This game will drive that child temporarily insane. Even if you nerf the rules as much as possible, the kid will make Chernobyl look like someone farted at the dinner table. Just…skip it.
What is Cobra Paw?
It’s a game for 2-6 players where you roll a pair of Dice and match the resulting faces against a pool of Stones (modified dominoes) and snatch the match away before anyone else can do it. The first to collect 8 Stones (6 in a 2-player games) wins. It’s that simple.
What’s in the Game?
- 1 Rule Book
- 21 Clawfuku Stones
- 2 Catnippon Dice
I love the hexagonal box. The components, while a good quality, aren’t enough to demand a box this size. But the cardboard insert does a nice job of both keeping things in place and creating a good presentation. Lastly, Laura Catasciato’s art direction is wonderful! The ninja cat on the cover is telegraphing what is going to happen with this game: fun, fun, and fun!
(Not-so-)Deep Dive into the Game
This will be brief because Cobra Paw is simple.
Put the Clawfuku Stones in the center of the playing area. That’s it. You’re ready to play. The player with smallest paws goes first.
I already mentioned you simply roll the dice and match the result with a stone in the pool. But there are a few important things to note. The publisher includes a Code of Conduct and at first, I thought it was just for laughs. But, it turns out to be great guidelines for playing the game. You can’t shield the Stones you’ve already collected, for example. Another one is that players who continue to play dishonorably are extradited to the Litter Box of Shame!
The most important pieces of information in the Code is that you have to snatch Stones with one hand only and no blocking any other player’s view of the Stones.
There are three variations but the only one I care for is the “No Touchy” rule. Simply stated, if you grab the wrong Stone, you’re done for the round. No second chances.
Ending the Game
As I stated, the first to collect 8 Stones wins the game. But be careful, I can steal yours away if the dice show one of yours and you don’t catch it before me. So it’s anyone’s game until you snatch that final Stone.
Games like Cobra Paw always rate high on the engagement scale. You simply will not fare well in this game if you are disengaged. And if you are disengaged you have ask yourself why you’re even at the table in the first place, yeah? Go watch reality tv or something.
Okay. Here’s the one that drives my son up the wall. If anyone at the table is faster than he is, he goes nuts. I’m not exaggerating. He gets pissed off if you don’t wait long enough for HIM to grab the stone first. And if you take one of his away you’ll see the veins in his throat breaching the surface of skin. All of them. He may even spit at you. I’ve even heard reports from some fathers that their sons find themselves in fistfights over this game.
If anyone you know has a hair trigger, don’t suggest this game to them. If you do, the consequences are on you. You’ve been warned. All joking aside, if your players can keep an even temper, Cobra Paw is quite fun and incredibly competitive!
Because it’s so fast to play and highly portable (and fun with the right people), the game is highly replayable. However, if you have time for only one game, this may not be the first one you reach for as it feels a bit light despite all the anxiety it can create.
For what it is, the quality is tops. The heavy resin Dice and Stones are perfect for small hands and the vivid colors and shapes make the pattern recognition easy even for children who can’t yet read. The rules are succinct and understandable. And even though the box is over-sized compared to what you get, the box is a good size when considered as a whole.
I like the game. I don’t like playing it with everyone in my house though. My oldest son, 15, is better at the game than I am. My youngest son is 4 (under the game’s recommended age of 6…42 in cat years) and thoroughly understands the concept of how you win. But he’ll despise you if you take a Stone. He takes it personally and he cannot believe you would pick on him like that.
I’ve made jokes about his reactions but I want to point out that while this game is above his level, he’s really not a monster to play games with. He’s just not ready for this game and if your children are under 6 or so they may not be either. On a serious note, don’t play this game with people with aggressive tendencies. And everyone needs to trim their nails before they play or they’re likely to draw blood.
- great quality components and beautiful box art
- simple rules and game play
- a lot of replayability a filler or warm-up game
- rage-inducing to those with quick tempers
- easy to continue playing even when you aren’t having a wonderful time