The Pumpkin King
by Michael (Max) Larson
(Boston, MA, USA)
The Pumpkin King
Board game manufacturer:
Number of players:
The Pumpkin King is a decent, fun game. It could benefit from better-written rules (I have added my own interpretations of the rules below this review for your assistance).
The game and gameplay
See the detailed rules below this review for most of the gameplay.
The game pieces consist of a curious one-eyed cat, four player’s pumpkin pieces with a different look to each, two unique dice and a scarecrow tree – on which a pumpkin must eventually ascend as the scarecrow’s head to win.
Pros and cons
In some ways, the gameplay is reminiscent of Chutes and Ladders (ironically, one of my least favorite games), but The Pumpkin King has more personality and more challenge.
This game has very attractive and durable gamepieces and board. The packaging is a small study tin, which is easy to store. Despite being a Halloween-themed game, it is fun any time of the year.
With the default rules, the game seems to favor multiple players. With only two players, you will find yourselves endlessly getting sent home to the point of boredom.
Further, in the course of normal gameplay, several “holes” appear where it is not clear what to do, regardless of how many players are involved. HOWEVER, that being said, the idea behind The Pumpkin King is cute and fun.
Because I think The Pumpkin King board game is WORTH GETTING, I am including a set of carefully prepared “Revised Rules” (below) that our family has used to enhance the playability and enjoyment.
THE PUMPKIN KING board game (Revised Rules by M. Larson, 2008)
1. Lay a path with the tiles leading from the “Pumpkin King” tile (start) to the “Headless scarecrow” tile (finish). Tiles with circles in them are “safety” zones for use in the game.
2. Place Baazlebub, the one-eyed cat, off the board next to the scarecrow. Place the pumpkins next to the “Pumpkin King” tile (this, off-the-board, area is “home” for when pumpkins are sent home. Baazlebub is only off the board at the start of the game.)
3. Each player rolls the pumpkin die, whoever gets the highest goes first.
Playing the Game:
1. For each turn, a player rolls BOTH dice. A roll consists of: the player’s move, FOLLOWED BY Baazlebub’s move. He must – in this order – move his pumpkin AHEAD the number shown on the brown pumpkin die; he must then do any requirements based on where he landed as indicated below:
a. If the pumpkin lands on another pumpkin in a SAFE ZONE, the current player must send his pumpkin home.
b. If the pumpkin lands on another pumpkin NOT in a safe zone, the OTHER pumpkin gets sent home.
c. If the pumpkin lands on Baazlebub, and Baazlebub is in a SAFE ZONE: Baazlebub is scared away to the NEXT SAFE ZONE in the PUMPKIN’S path, and the current player’s pumpkin STAYS on the current SAFE ZONE. If the SAFE ZONE Baazlebub moves to is occupied by another player’s pumpkin, Baazlebub is scared all the way back to the SCARECROW.
d. If the pumpkin lands on Baazlebub, and Baazlebub is NOT in a SAFE ZONE, then Baazlebub is scared all the way back to the SCARECROW, and the current player is scared back to the PREVIOUS SAFE ZONE in the pumpkin’s path (or the Pumpkin King tile, if no previous safe zones are present.) If the previous safe zone is already occupied by another pumpkin, the current player must move his own pumpkin home (off the board)!
2. He must then move the Baazlebub piece BACKWARDS the number shown on the black die; then performing any requirements as indicated below:
a. If Baazlebub lands on a pumpkin which is NOT in a safe zone, that pumpkin MUST go home… even if it is the current player’s pumpkin!!!
b. If Baazlebub lands on any pumpkin in a safe zone, Baazlebub goes back to the scarecrow square.
c. If Baazlebub has reached all the way to the “Pumpkin King” king tile, he continues to the next square which is the scarecrow square, as if the path were connected in a circular loop. For example, if Baazlebub were two tiles away from the Pumpkin King and rolled a six, then he would move the two to the Pumpkin king, then counting scarecrow as three, continue to move until six tiles have been crossed. If Baazlebub lands on a pumpkin, the rules in a) and b) above for pumpkins in Safe Zones (or not) apply.
d. If the Baazlebub die shows the BIG GREEN EYE, then the current player can do one of two things:
i. Move Baazlebub to ANY UNOCCUPIED tile on the board he likes (including leaving Baazlebub exactly where it is), – OR –
ii. He can choose to have Baazlebub take the place of an existing pumpkin that is NOT in a safe zone; rolling the pumpkin die to determine how many tiles to send that pumpkin backwards (but no further back than the Pumpkin King tile. Pumpkins do not loop the board like Baazelbub.).
Appropriate rules apply for where the pumpkin lands (i.e. if he lands on a pumpkin not in a safe zone, that other pumpkin goes back home, etc.)
Winning the Game:
1. To Win, the current player must roll the EXACT number of tiles required to land on the scarecrow square. If the player rolls too high a number (i.e. needs a four to win, rolls a six), they stay exactly where they are; HOWEVER, Baazlebub continues to move the number specified on its die.
If they can move at all (i.e. needs a four to win, rolls a two), they must advance whatever they can, and face the consequences of that space. Even after the current player lands on the scarecrow, he must STILL move Baazlebub, and face the consequences of where Baazlebub lands, including the possibility of being sent back home!
For example, if Baazlebub lands on a pumpkin in a safe zone, Baazlebub is sent back to the scarecrow, which bumps the (almost) winning player back home! – or, for example, if Baazlebub had made it all the way around the board to the Pumpkin King patch and rolled a one to advance to the scarecrow, again, the (almost) winning player is bumped back home.
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