You've surely played some of the mix & match children's games; the ones where you combine the head of one animal, the body from another and the lower limbs from a third. There are pencil and paper versions, picture books and countless small-box kids games that rely on this device. We've even seen mix & match games for grown ups; for example, Battle Bodies and Nightmarium (Ares), both of which were reviewed on Board's Eye View back in August 2019. The Muddles, from Big Potato Games, is predicated on a similar idea but it bypasses the process of body part recombination. Think of this as a gene splicing mix & match game!
In The Muddles, we start off with a row of chimera ('Muddles'): seven types in all. Every game is played with at least one of each but additional cards are drawn so that there will be multiple copies of some of the hybrid creatures. The cards all feature cute cartoon renditions and, just as each of the chimera is a combination of two animals then so too is its name: so, for example, a Pog is a cross between a pig and a frog, while the worm and bee hybrid is called a Wee. Each of the chimera (Muddles) has an assigned points value, ranging from Pog at 2 points to Bellyfish (bee and jellyfish) at 6 points. The different values broadly reflect the relative frequency of the constituent animal cards: as an example, the deck of animal cards has three times was many pigs as jellyfish.
Players (2–4) are each dealt three face up cards. If they have two that make up one of the chimera still available, then they trade in their cards and take the chimera card. Players otherwise discard and draw. If you have two identical cards, you can discard your other card in the hope of drawing a third matching card. This you can trade for any of the hybrid cards available. This is a push-your-luck element with a potentially high reward, tho' young children playing the game may be slower to realise that the odds of pulling off three of a kind are likely to be quite slim - especially if hoping to pick up that third jellyfish...
Young children, of course, are the primary audience for The Muddles, but there's a real game here and one that adults won't mind playing with them. The game incorporates a 'take that' element: you can steal a Muddle from another player rather than from the market display, but only so long as it's the top card on their pile. The rules also suggest optional variants to try - including playing with animal cards that are kept secret from the other players.
The Muddles is an attractive package from Big Potato Games and it's rounded off nicely with the inclusion of a small Mr Men-style book that tells the story of Wow (half worm, half cow). Who knows? This could be just the game to kick off your child's passion to become a genetic engineer!