Bored in Class? Play Board Games

Game: Rhino Hero

Ages: 5+

Developer: Scott Frisco, Steven Strumpf

Publisher: HABA

Illustrator: Thies Schwarz

Caillois Category / Spectrum: The Caillois Category in which Rhino Hero falls under is the Agon (Competitive), meaning competition is central and skill determines whether the player is successful. The category can be furthered analysed through the spectrum between Paidia and Ludus (Egenfeldt-Nielson, et al, 2008).

Theme/ Genre/ Setting

Rhino Hero is a children’s game that was available to purchase at German Supermarkets just before the checkout. As I had never played Rhino Hero before, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I came to find it was very similar to games such as Jenga and Kerplunk which also fall under the genre of children’s games. All involve an element of a combined effort but ultimately there is only one winner.

As I had stated in my audio, Rhino Hero provides cards that are all used in creating the structure of the building. As the cards are stacked and balanced upon one another, this creates the image of houses or apartments. The houses/ apartment sets the setting for the Rhino Hero figure to be able to climb and make it way to the top of the building.

I find it interesting how we are the creators of the setting of the game. Many games come with a setting already designed or with tokens or characters that create the setting. With Rhino Hero, we have continuous control of the setting as we play, each player placing their cards to create a building and trying to expand it to make it as high as possible.

Rhino Hero and similar games, Jenga and Kerplunk, share the theme of involving a group effort that builds anticipation as the game continues and each player takes their turn. Another theme that can be observed and is the common factor of these games, is the dexterity involved in order to successfully play the game. All games require the players to possess carefulness and steadiness with that ability to do it under pressure and with anticipation building.

The Mechanics

Sicart (2008) defines game mechanics as the “methods invoked by agents, designed for interaction with the game state.” To put it simply, game mechanics are the rules, methods, tactics, actions etc. that make up the game. Reflecting on my game experience, the prominent game mechanics of Rhino Hero can be split into card dealing, card actions, hand movement/ dexterity and the surface played on.

To start the game, each player is to receive 5 cards each, these are the cards used as the ‘roof’ once the walls are placed. I was in control of dealing the cards out to each player and I noticed that my action of dealing was automatic and didn’t involve much thought in the action. I had shuffled the cards slightly before I had begun to evenly distribute the cards to the players. This action of shuffling and dealing has been influenced by many other cards games such as Uno, it’s interesting to take notice of a common game mechanic that we have acquired through other influences and how we apply the action when we notice games that are similar.

Rhino Hero have Action Cards that influence the game play of the building process for the individual and the other players. These action cards include, a skip card, additional card, double roof card and the rhino card. This is where the individual play element came into it as these cards is what influenced our action and also how it was to affect the next players actions or lack there of, due to their turn being skipped. Many of the roof cards had actions assigned to them and made the game quite fast-paced and ever changing as there would be moments where a player was down to their last 2 cards but then the player before either skipped their turn or would make them pick up a card. The Rhino card was probably the most stressful card as it required the next player to first place the walls carefully, then move the rhino figure to the spot allocated and then they could place their roof card. There were many times where this action would shift the balance of the structure and cause uncertainty for the next player and whether they were going to succeed in being able to place all the cards without causing it to come crashing down. Sicart (2008) states “The formal, analytical understanding of mechanics only allows us to design and predict courses of interaction, but not to determine how the game will always be played, or what the outcome of that experience will be” conveying that the game provides us with action cards that we utilise to determine our game play but the anticipation, emotion and intensity of the game was shared and felt by all players of the game and was a prominent part of the experience.

The most obvious mechanic of Rhino Hero was the use of hand movement and dexterity involved. The game requires the player to take the Wall cards and bend them into the position that is marked, once it is bent into the correct position, the player must carefully place it on the markings as accurately and carefully without disturbing the current structure of the building. If the player does not accurately place the card in position, this causes an instability that can affect every other player. During our first round of Rhino Hero, we were still trying to understand the game as we played and didn’t pay much attention to the positioning of the cards. This resulted in our structure collapsing quite early in the round. In our second round, we were aware of the importance of the card placement and made sure we did it the best we could. This resulted in us being able to build a very tall structure but what we had forgotten to consider is the surface we were playing the game on. The table was quite a high table so as our structure grew, we were finding it difficult to correctly place the cards and had to get up on the stools to be able to reach and continue our structure. We were trying really hard to continue the structure and all of us were really focused on keeping it going. We did quite well and built a structure almost double the size of the first one which we were impressed with but unfortunately it ended up collapsing which made us all a little disappointed. The game mechanics demonstrates the “systemic structure of games in terms of actions afforded to agents to overcome challenges, but also the analysis of how actions are mapped onto input devices and how mechanics can be used to create specific emotional experiences in players” (Sicart, 2008).

My Experience and Response

Overall, Rhino Hero was definitely a game I thoroughly enjoyed partaking in as from the very start, I was quite intrigued to play a card game that involved using all the cards that were provided. I liked the simplicity of Rhino Hero and its straight forward instructions of the game as the other games I had played, had a lot of writing and reading which made it quite overwhelming and often left the group confused and uncertain of the first course of action with the little knowledge absorbed. I especially enjoyed the group involvement aspect of the game as we all had a common goal of wanting to build a stable, tall structure and were sharing each other’s emotions of anticipation and uncertainty when it came to each of our individual turns but then there was the individual game play where it reminded us that there is meant to be a winner and there are actions we can make that can affect other players in order to benefit ourselves. Rhino Hero was a great game that provided a cohesiveness that was very much appreciated.

References

Sicart, M. 2008, ‘Defining game mechanics’, The international journal of computer game research, vol. 8, no. 2.

Simon Egenfeldt-Nielson, Jonas Heide Smith, Susana Pajarest Tosca 2008. Chapter 3 “What is a Game?” Taylor and Francis. 22-40.

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