Once upon a time, there was a board game. It was a small board game and played only two, but folk loved it and its reputation grew and grew over time, leading to other versions being published: two four-player versions, an auction version, a tile taker, even a roll & write. Then, one day, not so long ago, someone thought a theme might help people engage with the game. So... wolves building houses, y'know, because. And a piggy. With a moustache. Which makes it a BIG - BAD - PIGGY. Excuse me, I must have put the wrong mushrooms in my omelette for lunch.
Three Little Wolves, designed and illustrated by Poki Chen and Smoox Chen, and published by Taiwan Boardgame Design, Poki Design and Renegade Game Studios, is a small box card game aimed at families but with enough teeth to disguise itself as a filler for gamers. In the game, players are constructing high-rising houses in three colours to please the BBP (the aforementioned Big Bad Pig), while trying to accommodate their eponymous litter in other players' abodes. For the most part, houses can only be built upwards by playing cards in ascending order, not necessarily sequential; tho' for each colour the 1, 2, 3s are also basement cards which can be retrofitted, again, in order.
With a smallish hand size of just five cards, there is evident tension from the get-go as to which card to play: to start building or hold off for better cards. A delaying tactic can be to discard a card in order to lodge one of your three little wolves into another player's house. Which is great... IF the house is still standing at the end of the game; it won't be if it's the smallest of that colour, so you want your opponents to do well, then, but obviously not too well, as the tallest of each scores a bonus.
There are two random interim scoring stages at which the player with the tallest house receives extra victory points, but not the same house twice. To spice up the race, some levels can be built that have multiple floors on a single card; but these powers are lost if overbuilt. When the third scoring card is drawn, the game ends after two more rounds. The tallest and smallest houses of each colour are determined - with the latter scheduled for demolition and any pups inside sent to pooch paradise - final scores are tallied for each standing house, plus bonuses earned, and points for billeted pups.
Three Little Wolves' snappy play and thick-lined artwork - which has a mischievous Quentin Blake aesthetic - indicate a very family-friendly game. But, be careful... it's got some bite, too. The push-pull of placing wolves added to the timing of building your own houses while keeping a watch on the relative height - both tall and small - of everyone else's is worthy of many more 'mature', nay complex, games. It's a delight that such subtleties are present here in a game that actually does run to the time advertised (15-20 minutes).
If you haven't guessed by now, the game referenced above is Lost Cities by Reiner Knizia and it's that which I feel Three Little Wolves evokes, but with a wider (2-4) player count, single round, and even smaller box. Oh my, what a big smile I have... at least until someone builds a bigger house than mine! Now, where's Grandma? I'm feeling peckish.
(Review by David Fox)