Saddle Up!: Don’t make matches to win
In a weirdly satisfying way, the game Saddle Up! is the essentially the reverse of previously reviewed game Aquarius. (See HERE) Instead of looking for places where your cards match, in Saddle Up! you’re looking for where a card doesn’t match. And that pretty much sums up the game….right here in the introduction.
Now because I don’t want this article to be one paragraph – it kind of doesn’t do the game justice – I’ll delve a little deeper into the game play. The setup is simple, mix up the deck of cards (you can’t really shuffle them because they’re too stiff) and place them in a stack. Take the top two cards and place them next to each other so nothing matches (neither color NOR object can match either horizontally, vertically or diagonally.) These two cards start the playing area. Next, one player will flip over 2 cards at the same time for the whole table to see. Everyone looks and tries to find a place to play one of the two cards where they won’t create any matches.
You would think the “no match” thing would be pretty easy – but it’s amazing how many times you screw up! So when you think you’ve found a spot you yell “WHOA!” (or more likely “I’ve got it!”) and show were the card goes. If you’re correct, it stays there and you collect the other card and the player with the most cards at the end of the game wins. If you were wrong, you’re out for the round AND you must discard one of your cards. The game is over when you run out of cards in the draw deck.
Saddle Up! also has 2 other game variants in it, which are okay – but I really liked the “no match” game the best. After a while it’s amazing that your brain actually feels like it’s getting a little workout. Since the game requires no reading, it’s good family fun. Adult’s brains aren’t wasting away from sheer boredom (like some other children’s games) and kids have a chance of winning. It also plays well with 2 players all the way up to a larger group (up to 6 players).
On the invention side of things, Saddle Up! is the brainchild of Germany’s Reinhard Staupe (I know that because his name is on the box). But Reinhard has also invented other games with Playroom Entertainment (Sherlock, Trading Faces) and games you may remember Blink (Out of the Box, Mattel) and Ricochet (Gamewright) in addition to many, MANY others. Like most inventors, it took him a little while to break out into the business. He invented his first game in 1989 but didn’t sign a licensing contract until 5 years later. You can read a nice interview of him on The Dice Tower website (see HERE). My favorite part was a question regarding the difference between German and American game markets and he says “As far as I’m concerned, the basic structures of the American and the German markets are the same: The more complex a game is the more difficult it is to sell.” Duly noted.
Saddle Up! Stats:
- ~$8-10 Amazon.com, FunagainGames.com, and some mom & pop game stores
- 2-6 players
- 10-15 min.
- Ages 5 and up