Spanish speakers will have no trouble identifying the theme of this light family game from Spanish publisher 2Tomatoes: Rocódromo means 'climbing wall' and in this game, designed by Toni López, the 2-4 players are competing to be the first to reach the top of a climbing wall.
With art by Sergi Marcet, Rocódromo is a colourful game that's played using a modular, and therefore variable, board that's assembled on a vertical cardboard mount using six of the eight supplied double-sided tiles. Its 3D presentation adds to the game's striking table appeal. Players start off with two carabiner tokens and there's an open market of 20 rope tokens: four of ascending lengths in each of the five colours used on the climbing wall.
On your turn you can either Prepare or Climb. To Prepare, you just pick a rope colour and take the shortest available rope in that colour. To skip a size and take the next longest, you place a carabiner token on the rope(s) you are skipping over. Anyone who subsequently takes that rope will also get the carabiner token (and there can be more than one token on a rope). You cannot have more than three ropes Prepared, tho' if you already have three ropes you can discard one in order to take another.
To take the Climb action, you identify the vacant hole that you want to ascend to and you choose one of the ropes you've prepared. The rope has to be the colour of the hole you want to move to. The key rule tho' is that you're not allowed to measure the distance between the holes; you're not allowed to lay the rope against the wall to check if it's the right length. Rocódromo then is a game that's primarily aimed at reinforcing players' estimating skills: a core component of primary school mathematics. Only once you've selected your rope are you permitted to test if it is the right length to connect your starting and target hole: starting from the hole of your climber's current position, the two holes need to be completely covered and without the rope exceeding the colour section of the hole you are trying to reach. Get it right and you complete the climb, moving your climber token. Get it wrong and your climber stays put. In either case, the rope is returned to its original position in the supply.
Because Rocódromo is primarily a children's game, there's a catch up mechanism for a player who fails a Climb action and is in last place (lowest position on the climbing wall): you get to take a compensatory Prepare action and can pick up another rope - tho' not the one you just discarded.
Rocódromo is a simple 10-15 minute game that primary school age children can enjoy and which has an educational element in helping to hone estimating skills. Because you're allowed to make two Climb moves on a turn, it pays to plan ahead - to the extent that Rocódromo is an easy introduction too to 'programming' games. And the educational element doesn't come at the expense of fun: kids will enjoy advancing their climbers up the vertically mounted wall. 2Tomatoes have done a good job in the game's production: we especially liked the way the climber tokens are designed so that they peg into the holes on the climbing wall. Younger children tho' may need some help assembling the board.