As a father, I’m always looking for games to introduce my kids to, so I jumped at the opportunity to try Haba’s Flotsam Float. Flotsam Float is a 2-5 player skill game suitable for ages 6-99. Like some of you, I’ve been drawn by too many Candyland games, so I can’t say I had high expectations for a children’s game, but I recruited my daughter, niece, and nephew to give this one a shot.
With Flotsam Float, several islands are placed on the table at equal intervals. The islands consist of four maps with different block shapes on them and a 3D cardboard mountain in the middle. At the start of the game, each island has four available maps/shapes and an island starts with a raft balanced on it. During gameplay, the active player chooses a shape from the island the raft is on and adds it to the raft. The player then takes the now-blank card that reveals where to move the raft. The player must pick up the raft and bring it to the new island without any of the blocks falling off. If he succeeds, he keeps the card and scores points equal to the number of shells printed on the card at the end of the game. If pieces fall off, they keep moving the raft but are not allowed to keep the card. A fallen stone is returned to the map and all further fallen stones are removed from the game. This continues by piling more and more blocks onto the raft and moving them around until there is only one island left with available pieces. The player with the most shells at the end (points) wins.
While the box says six as the minimum age to play, I played this with two three year olds and one six year old. The younger kids were able to pick it up with a little help and the 6 year old had no trouble understanding the gameplay or interacting with the pieces. The game can easily be scaled to adjust the level of difficulty for children of different ages or skill levels. You can allow two hands when moving the raft, or just one. You could just use your free hand or ask the older kids to stay seated. It’s really up to you and allows the whole family to get involved without it being too hard or too easy.
The shapes used in the game are all designed to match the treasure hunt island theme and stack easily. The variety of shapes and sizes is beautiful and the chunky real wood is a joy to touch and interact with. The rule book is short and easy to understand. All components can be easily stowed away in the huge box.
I don’t think education is a requirement for a child’s game, but it’s a nice bonus if done well and enriches the game without making playtime a chore. Flotsam Float builds dexterity through its core mechanics, but also introduces some strategy choices as older children begin to understand how their shape choices and how they stack them affects their turn and other players. Then at the end there is the obvious math involved in adding points. While simple counting is probably trivial for a 6-year-old, you can encourage him to use addition as he’s evaluating each card instead of just counting the shells.
Flotsam Float is a charming family game that can be played with children from the age of three. Set up and take down is a breeze and easy to learn. Most importantly, I can play it without wanting to hide it in the closet afterwards and hoping my kids will forget (don’t tell them where Candyland is).
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