Dead animals, scissors, turds and fireworks. All things you don’t want to see on the playground of your kindergarten. Especially not on evaluation day. However, you can’t be everywhere at once. Can you keep your job?
Operation Kindergarten is a game about a regular day at… a kindergarten. You and the other players are teachers, all teaching a variety of children, from the very young to the slightly less very young, all playing carefree on the playground. Just like any other day. You just forgot one important thing: it’s Evaluation Day.
Oh no! Not today! Oh dear. Jimmy!! Let go of those scissors!
The game is played over six rounds. The children move around, the teachers run after them and try to create some order. The head teacher is monitoring everything. After every round you are evaluated. You get one minus points for every one of your Boo-Boo cubes that’s on the board. You also get one minus point for every Boo-Hoo disk of yours in any classroom. However, if a Boo-Hoo disk lies in the classroom where the Head Teacher is located, you get an additional minus point. The Boo-Boo’s stay, the Boo-Hoo’s go back to your supply, another round another chance. You start with a perfect score of one hundred points and during the game you’ll lose points as described above, plus at the end of the game the Head Teacher will check if all your children are back in their classroom, if not, depending of on how many are not there, you get more minus points. The player with the highest score is the winner of the game.
A round goes as follows. Every teacher has nine children in their class, three Tots, three Tykes and three Toddler, represented by tokens in their colour in increasing size. During round one the player will put their Tot tokens in a cloth bag. Then the starting player will draw these tokens form the bag and places them on the board, on the designated hexes.
The board is divided into four or three sections, depending on if you play a three or two/ four player game. Every player has a section in their colour. A section is divided into several numbered hexes. Every side of a hex also has a number from one to six. This has something to do with the movement of the children. In the middle of the board you’ll find a Sandbox, which is a safe zone, but only a limited amount of children can be in there. In the far corners of every sector there are Danger zones. Children can easily walk to a danger zone, but need a teacher to get them out of their, the same is the case with the Sandbox.
After a new group of children have been placed on the board there’s a Roll Call. The starting player rolls the dice and then all players, in turn order, pick a die until they are all used. Players must place a die on one of the spots on the Teachers’ Lounge board. There are slots to determine the direction the children in each age group move to, the amount of steps they take, the amount of steps the Head Teacher takes, the amount of hexes your teacher may move and the types of bonus actions you are allowed to choose from.
After all dice are placed on the Teachers’ Lounge board, the Head Teacher will move passing classroom after classroom. The classroom it ends in determines the first player.
After that, the children will move according to the dice assigned to their age group. If a three has been placed on the slot that determines the movement direction of the Tykes, and a five at the amount of steps, it means that all Tykes will move five steps and they will follow the path of the three’s, as you can see in the hexes. The children will move from old to young and in player order.
Children must stop if they enter a hex with another child, a hex with a chaos tile (more on that later), or if they enter the sandbox or a Danger Zone. A hex can never have more than three children on it. If that does happen, the youngest children on the target hex get a Boo-Hoo.
After the children move phase, the teacher can fix whatever is broken. They can move, do one action and one bonus action. It depends on the die on the corresponding spot which bonus actions they can choose. The teacher can order a child to move, he can remove a Boo-Hoo token, remove a Boo-Boo token, remove a chaos tile, regroup the children around her, carry a child, or do an extra move action. Th teachers can start returning their children to their classroom during the fourth round and later, by the way.
The fourth phase is the chaos phase. At the start of this phase the players will check if the children are affected by the chaos tiles on the board. These tiles cause Boo-Hoo’s and Boo-Boo’s by children in one or more age groups. After the tiles are resolved they go back into the cloth bag and then the first player will draw twice the amount of tiles from the bag as there are players. Half of the tiles are placed face-down, showing a number, and the other half are placed face-up, showing the type of chaos, on the rows on the Teachers’ Lounge board. Every row there belongs to a colour and eventually the face-up chaos tiles are placed on the hex with the number that was on the face-down tile in the designated section.
The last phase is the Evaluation phase and I already described that above. After six rounds the game will end and the winner of the game is the player who messed up the least.
Managing a kindergarten, now that’s just an original theme. Can you name a game with the same theme? You being a teacher, running around, chasing kids doing dangerous stuff. I can’t.
So, the theme is great. It’s original, it’s fresh.
Well, now let’s talk about the game itself. It’s chaotic. Very chaotic, and you have to like that. In this game I don’t. For me it almost feels like the game is playing you instead of you playing the game. I just don’t get the feeling that I’m responsible for the position I end up in.
Why is that?
Well it’s mainly because there are so many random elements in the game. Firstly, the dice placement in the Roll Call phase. It gives you the impression that you can choose the way the children move. You can choose the direction and you can choose the amount of steps they take, but your children are spread out over the board and all your children from the same age group just don’t need to go in the same direction. So, you basically try to pick a die that helps you the most, maybe for one or two children. However, that die will probably help or not help your opponents just as much as you help, or not help, yourself. Plus, the stacking rules, little kids on the top and no more than three children per stack, and the movement of other children will probably mess with your plans every round anyway.
You basically can only do six things yourself. Six times you can do an action with your teacher and hopefully you get a one decent bonus action every round, but for that you are dependent on the dice you’ve thrown. Come-on, six to twelve things you can do in a whole game. That means I’ve got just not enough things to do.
On top the random element of the movement of the children, there’s the drawing of the chaos tiles, which also just happens to you. It’s a random type of chaos on a random hex in one of the four or three sectors.
I do enjoy the take-that element in the game. The fact that the other players can, and probably must, actively mess with your plans is nice. It’s maybe less thematic, -will a teacher really put a child next to a dead animal just because it’s not a child from his own class?-, but it makes it more of a game. That’s the kind of chaos I enjoy. You can mess with the other players, they can mess with you. Take it or leave it. I mean, my job as a teacher is on the line here.
Being the first player also seems to be a big deal. A too big of a deal in my opinion. As the first player you can choose your die first, your pupils move first and you can choose your actions first. The latter also can be a disadvantage, because you can’t do anything against the harm that the other players did to you, but on the whole we felt that being the first player and staying the first player was a big advantage.
On to the graphic design. The illustrations are pretty nice, very cartoony, but the colour blue on the board was not a good choice. In low light you could hardly distinguish the small numbers on the sides of the hexes used for the movement of the pupils. Then there’s the rulebook, which could also have been written in a more intuitive way.
All in all, this game did not impress me. There were small elements that I enjoyed, but it was not nearly enough, so I do not like the overall game. All I’m left with is an unfulfilled feeling. When I ever decide to apply for a job at a Kindergarten, please remind of this game. Thank you.
Many thanks to LudiCreations for providing me a review copy. Check out their website for more information about their games. (LINK)
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