- For ages 7 and up
- For 2 players
- About 20 minutes to complete
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Child – Moderate
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Two families of Penguins on the ice playing soccer!
- Gamer Geek approved!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
The game of soccer is celebrated, played, and followed just about everywhere in the world. It should then come as no surprise that a family of Penguins also enjoy playing the game! Instead of a field, they have a patch of ice, but that hardly makes any difference. The game is still the same and is just as challenging, if not more so. Now you can play the game with them and use all your strategic and tactical skills to score a goal! Careful! One wrong slip on the ice and you could find yourself losing the game!
Penguin Soccer is comprised of a rubber mat with an 8×8 square grid, 3 black Penguins (in 3 sizes), 3 white Penguins (in 3 sizes), and 1 red disc which represents the soccer ball. All the pieces fit very nicely in a small oblong bag which makes the game portable and easy to store. Note that the rubber mat is stored by rolling it into a tube-like state and is then placed in the oblong bag. It is suggested you roll your rubber mat with the 8×8 playing area on the outside. This will keep your playing area flat when you roll it out to play.
Game Set Up
To set up the game, unroll and place the rubber mat in the middle of the playing area. Each player should situate themselves so they are behind opposite corners of the grid. It is suggested you set the rubber mat at a 45 degree angle, allowing the player’s to sit across from each other as normal.
The red disc that represents the soccer ball is placed on the intersecting lines of the four central squares on the grid. The red disc is considered reachable from any of the four squares it is touching.
Finally, each player should select a family of Penguins. One player takes 3 white Penguins and the other player takes 3 black Penguins. You are now ready to play the game.
Know Thy Ice
Since this is a soccer game being played by Penguins, it stands to reason that the playing field is icy and slippery. Penguins do not run in this game, but slide from square to square. Penguins enter the game through the player’s “Home Square” which also happens to be their goal zone they must attempt to protect.
When sliding around on the ice, the Penguin figures and the red disc never go out-of-bounds. If their movement would take them past and over the playing area, they stop on the last square before leaving the playing mat. When moving around the board, the red disc and the Penguins can move in any of the 8 directions (horizontally, vertically, and diagonally).
Each Penguin has specific movement and kicking rules which are dependent on the size of the Penguin figure.
- Large Sized Penguin (the Mama), can slide 1 square and kick 3 squares
- Medium Sized Penguin (the Papa), can slide 2 squares and kick 2 squares
- Small Sized Penguin (the Baby), can slide 3 squares and kick 1 square
An easy way to remember is to note that the bigger the Penguin, the slower they are, but the harder they can kick the red disc!
Playing Soccer, Penguin Style
On the player’s turn, they must take an action with one of their Penguins. When first starting the game, the first action that each player will take will be bring out their Penguins on their Home Square. After that, the players have the following actions to take, but only one Penguin and one action can be taken per turn. Note that a Penguin and the red disc can occupy the same square at the same time, but two Penguins cannot, even if they are on the same team. Additionally, an opponent’s Penguin can never occupy the other player’s Home Square.
- A sliding Penguin drops to their belly (if standing) and faces in the direction the player wants the Penguin to slide
- A Penguin slides in a single direction to their maximum distance unless they tackle another Penguin who has the red disc or encounter the disc
- A Penguin’s slide immediately stops if they enter the same square as the red disc, standing up
- A Penguin can rotate 45 degrees per square while sliding, but always goes the same direction for the duration of the slide – this rotation is used to orientate the Penguin for their next slide if needed
- A Penguin cannot slide away from the disc if they currently have it
- A Penguin must stand up from the sliding position if they end their turn or enter the same square as the red disc
- A standing Penguin is considered facing all directions – you do not need to orientate your Penguin in a specific direction
- A standing Penguin can kick the red disc
- A Penguin must be standing in order to kick the disc and occupy the same square as the disc
- A Penguin can kick the disc in any of the 8 directions (horizontally, vertically, and diagonally)
- A Penguin can pass the red disc to any other Penguin, including their opponent’s Penguins
Sliding, Standing, and Kicking are the three main actions the Penguins can take at any time. There is one special action the player’s can take called “Tackling”.
- A sliding Penguin enters the same space as a Penguin holding the red disc
- The sliding Penguin stops and stands up, now claiming the square and the disc
- The tackled Penguin slides 1 square in the direction the sliding Penguin was traveling, is placed in the sliding position, facing away from the now standing Penguin who tackled them
The Goal of the Game
Using the above mentioned actions, the player moves their Penguins around the board and passes the red disc between them. When they are within range of their opponent’s Home Square, they can attempt to kick a goal. This is done in the same way as kicking with a standing Penguin. If the red disc should enter the Home Square, the player scores a point. This is true even if the opponent has one of their Penguins currently occupying their Home Square.
The first player to score a goal wins the game!
For more information on the game including the complete rules that describe the actions and game play in more detail, see the game’s official web site.
My oldest little geek loves to play soccer and I am being terribly biased when I say he is the greatest soccer player in the world. What he is not good at is Chess, and that is essentially what Penguin Soccer is. To be more specific, Penguin Soccer is an abstract game that is focused on positioning and thinking at least 2 moves ahead at all times. My oldest can think 2 moves ahead but it burns him out. You cannot “react” in Penguin Soccer and expect to do well. You need a plan and the foresight to know how best to execute it. For this reason, Penguin Soccer is not a game I will be teaching and expect to play with my 4-year-old. The tactics and strategies are beyond him at the moment and I doubt he would appreciate the game or have fun playing it.
I have been teaching my oldest how to play Chess off and on for a while now. I believe Chess is one of those games that every Gamer Geek should at least know how to play. After all, a well-rounded gamer is a good gamer. Not only is the game a classic, it is also an excellent starting point for little geeks to learn how to play abstract games and hone their geek skills in the areas of strategy and tactics. While I never expect my little geeks to be Grand Masters, I do hope they take away from every game experience, be it Chess or any other game, just a little more knowledge on how to play games better, how to think faster, and play smarter.
I pitched Penguin Soccer to my 7-year-old by describing it as a Chess game with Penguins. Using his soccer and Chess background, I was able to describe what the Penguins do, how they do it, and why it was important. He grasped the fundamentals very quickly and was able to recite back to me the rules after I explained them. His only questions had to do with the orientation of the Penguin when you slide them and why you would want to rotate them 45 degrees on each square. This threw me at first, too, and I explained to him that he was actually saving himself time by doing so. If he did not rotate his Penguins, he would be forced to make them stand up and then slide them in the direction he wanted, using two turns to do so. Instead, he could just orientate this Penguin while sliding and then slide again on his next turn in the direction his Penguin was facing. This explanation made sense to him and he felt confident he could play the game.
As I set up the board, I asked him his thoughts on the game so far.
“You know I like soccer and I like how the Penguins move. I think I’m going to like the game.” ~ Liam (age 7)
Looks like this game is going to start out on a positive note! Let’s play the game and hope it doesn’t go sour.
Penguin Soccer was a hit and proved to be a real challenge for both my little geek and myself! While I most certainly had the upper hand most of the time, my little geek made a great number of surprising moves, including passing the red disc to his other Penguins! We both hooted when we were able to pull off a move and groaned when a the red disc was moved away or we were not able to get our Penguin in the right position in time. The range of emotions we both felt throughout the game were very similar to what my son and I feel when we watch soccer on TV or play the game. In short, it was emotionally and mentally exhausting, but very much worthwhile.
When playing the game, you will most likely feel like it is not going anywhere, fast. This is actually pretty accurate. The majority of the game is about positioning and getting set to take a shot. Keep in mind that the game actually ends as soon as a player scores a goal. Seems like the game is terribly anti-climatic, but this could not be further from the truth. At first, it is more or less each player just sliding around on the ice with their Penguins, but then the players start to focus on specifics and strategy and tactics come into play. Towards the end of the game, you’ll be tapping your foot and gritting your teeth as you wait almost impatiently for your turn.
Gamer Geeks, this is a challenging abstract strategy game that really makes you think. Depending on the skill of your opponent, expect to burn a lot of brain power as you try to outmaneuver and out position your opponent in hopes of scoring a goal. The game starts off slow and then ramps up to a feverish pitch as you and your opponent attempt to find an opening!
Parent Geeks, this is a wonderful abstract game for two players to sit down with and enjoy a good mental abstract strategy game. The theme is easy to follow and plays well with the game mechanics. In no time, you and your little geek will be scrutinizing the different ways to get the red disc into the goal before the other player does. Do expect some downtime as you should let your little geek take as much time as needed to think about their move. Do everything you can to not rush them. This is not a fast game, but nor is it terribly long.
Child Geeks, this is a challenging but very rewarding soccer game where you get to direct a family of Penguins as they attempt to score a goal. Help them slide on the ice, tackle their opponent’s, and score the goal for victory! Do expect to be frustrated as you learn how to best use your three Penguins, but rest easy in the knowledge that this game is won by taking little steps and every move you make will help you win the game.
I am very pleased with Penguin Soccer and would recommend it to family, friends, and to you, reader. It is a challenging game that makes you think. My only complaint about the game is the rules. While it does explain how to play the game very well, I think providing example images would go a long way to resolve any confusion and delay in getting the game to the table. Other than that, Penguin Soccer is a wonderful game and well worth your time to play at your next gaming table gathering!
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.