Dobble: card game review

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Game provided by the manufacturer

I videogame. I videogame lots. My daughters videogame a fair bit too, but there are other fun things going on as well – like jumping on the trampoline and setting up teddies for a pretend classroom (sometimes I let the kids join in). Board and card games aren’t really a thing for us. We went through a brief stage of playing Monopoly (My Little Pony edition, of course) as is the law, but that sort of fizzled out due to the epic length of time necessary to play a game. Top Trumps (My Little Pony edition, of course) still gets played now and again when it’s not in whatever mysterious land the possessions of small children get whisked away to; but that’s about it.

At least, it was until Dobble.

It may not feature My Little Pony but Dobble hooked our family immediately, and has caused only the bare minimum of arguments (if there were no arguments, that would mean nobody was interested). The basic concept, as with the greatest non-video games, is extremely simple. The unassuming little tin contains 55 cards, and each card has eight symbols. Any two cards will display one matching symbol between them – no more, no less. Can you see where this is going?

The instruction leaflet lays out rules for five different games, but they all come down to spotting which symbol matches one on your card before your enemies/opponents. The two games we tend to stick to involve (a) starting with one card each, the winner being the one who ends up with the most cards each, or (b) starting with just one card in the middle of the table, the winner being the first to get rid of all their cards. As you may very well have guessed, you discard/gain a card by being the first to shout the symbol you have which matches one on the top card in the pile.

Somehow, there really is just one symbol that matches between any two cards you pick at random. That in itself is an impressive feat. Oh yes, there have certainly been times where one of us has compared our card with the one in the middle for a full minute, before declaring “There is no symbol that matches!” shortly followed by somebody else saying “Yes there is, look”, which is itself shortly followed by “Er, oh yeah”. Spotting the matching symbol is rarely as simple as it sounds.

There are only eight pictures per card, but some fascinating psychology has been applied in how they are displayed, the details of which I would love to read about. You can spot the matching symbol because… well, because it’s the same picture, with the same colour/s used. However the placement and, often, the size of the symbol is not the same on both cards, which knocks you off balance somewhat when trying to quickly find a match under pressure. The fact that symbols each use just one or two colours, which are used by others on the same card, makes things even trickier. I don’t quite understand what it is about the workings of the human brain which makes this game so challenging at speed, but the designers clearly do.

A game of Dobble only lasts a few minutes, quicker still (I imagine) if you can get together the maximum eight players. It’s hideously addictive, with just as much of a ‘one more go’ factor as a (good) Call of Duty game online. We’d play with a maximum four players aged 6 (minimum recommended, as it happens), 10, 35, and 36. The kids will sometimes play each other, or me and The Wife will play one-on-one for card-based supremacy. No matter who’s playing, it’s hectic and fun.

The cards themselves are very well made, but it probably would have been a good idea to laminate them; especially as it’s a good game for young kids (we had a close chocolate-cake-related call ourselves). I find the mascot – a purple hand with legs, a mouth, and one giant eye – mildly disturbing. But that might just be me.

We live in the 21st Century; it takes a lot to drag my kids away from the likes of Minecraft, Netflix, and YouTube. When the stars align however, Dobble proves itself to be ‘a lot’. I certainly don’t begrudge it the time it’s taken from my small mountain of consoles, either. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to crack open the Dobble tin again so I can totally pwn my wife.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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