The Slavic folk tale Baba Yaga is re-imagined in this game of memory and distraction for two to five players, with fast-moving play that includes elements of the story.
|Baba Yaga||IELLO Games||Board Game|
In The Box
A small wooden doll included with the game depicts Baba Yaga herself and completely steals the show. She’s painted with a red kerchief over her head, and the doll’s base is decorated with the grinning face of a magic cauldron Baba Yaga whizzes around in as she searches for two wayward children. These ideas are drawn from the tale of Baba Yaga, and you’ll find a pamphlet inside the box with a version of the story specially adapted for this game.
Along with the witch and her cauldron are a set of sturdy cardboard disks, which are used to construct the game’s board. A set of cards are also included, showing ingredients that the players will be gathering to create spells. These spells will generally help you or disadvantage other players, and collecting them is the key to winning.
Baba Yaga is the second game in IELLO’s storybook series that began with The Three Little Pigs. We were impressed with the overall production value of both games; they’re solid enough to hold up for many sessions with little gamers who occasionally have a heavy hand when it comes to boards, cards, and game components. Expect Baba Yaga to hold up for many years to come.
How It Plays
Building the board is simple, since there are visual examples in the rule book and within the box, showing how to lay out the 5×5 grid. This grid is meant to represent the forest the children are running through to escape Baba Yaga. There are nine special tiles with Baba Yaga’s face on them that run through the center of the forest in both directions. This leaves four groups of four tiles each to complete the forest, and you’ll be left with two extra tiles that may come into play later. Cards are dealt secretly, three to each player.
Each turn consists of an active player flipping over one of her three cards, while the other players take turns moving Baba Yaga along a straight path through the center of the forest. This happens simultaneously, which ends up being like a combination of Memory and Twister! The active player scrambles to turn over the correct forest tiles and uncover at least three out of four spell ingredients listed on her card, all the while being distracted by the motion of Baba Yaga. If a player can gather at least three ingredients, she’s able to cast the spell listed on her card. Once a player casts all three of her spells, that person is declared the winner.
There are variations that modify the level of difficulty, or let you handicap parents and older kids playing with very young opponents. There’s even a two-player variation that forces one player to keep a hand on top of his head while moving Baba Yaga. Spells also have effects like this, such as the “Tiny” spell that forces you to put your head on the table while trying to scout ingredients. Not only do the ingredient tiles offer clues, but players who don’t gather all the ingredients on their first turn will end up with at least a second if not a third choice. This all combines to make Baba Yaga a very accessible game for families with young kids, and a much needed update to the memory-game formula.
Be sure to read the story before playing the game, since it will help kids connect the beautiful illustrations on the back of the forest tiles to the ingredients on the flip side. You may have to explain what a few of the illustrations actually depict, since not many kids these days have actually seen an oil can.
I like how the tiles show hints that connect to the story. Eventually you memorize the tiles, but ingredients like the frog and snake potions look similar when you’re in a hurry, and keep things challenging. I loved the spells; they make Baba Yaga more than just a memory game.