A Bingo Ate Your Baby
Back in the winter of 2005, I spent one morning of every week volunteering in a retirement home. It was a rewarding time in its own way, but also rather ho-hum, especially because my job was to play bingo or bunco with the residents. For four hours straight. Not kidding, I’m occasionally bored awake by dreams of that ceaselessly shaking bunco cup. Night terrors would at least be interesting.
So when I cracked open the rulebook for Dingo’s Dreams only to discover a riff on bingo, the fact that it had been designed by Alf Seegert and illustrated by the prime target of my affection, Ryan Laukat, didn’t do as much for me as it might have otherwise. A pair of fantastic designers and artists making a ritzy version of bingo?
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: you’ve got a five-by-five grid. At random, items on that grid are gradually marked. Be the first to get five in a row and you get to shout something that rhymes with “jingo.”
The thing is, you’ve never heard a rendition of bingo quite like Dingo’s Dreams. Here, it isn’t enough to merely flip over pleasant pictures of mountains, caves, and grasslands until you happen to line up a pattern — and in fact, that pattern might not even be a straight line. After each card is announced — flipping one of your tiles over to its animal side in the process — you’ll also make a “slide,” pushing a line of tiles until the last tile falls off the end and filling in the gap with whatever tile fell out of the puzzle last round. It’s a simple maneuver. It’s your only maneuver. And yet, that single move is all Dingo’s Dreams needs to go from bingo clone to a family-friendly puzzle game. It’s so simple that a child could grasp it, but packs enough options that it takes a good head for spatial positioning to pull off a quick win.
Which isn’t to say that luck doesn’t play a tremendous factor. A single flipped tile might put someone in position for a quick win. But in a game this fast, that’s hardly the point. It’s easy enough to play to multiple points, or just spend five minutes playing along without worrying too much about who’s having a good run. Or, if things are too easy, go ahead and add hazards. These make it impossible to win unless you’ve matched the pattern and avoided leaving any animals in perilous spots. If Dingo’s Dreams is suitable for children and adults, with hazards is how the latter play it.
There will undoubtedly be those who argue that there isn’t enough “game” to Dingo’s Dreams. And while the naysayers aren’t wrong, they’re missing the point. This is a simple title meant for filling time between game night highlights, playing with kids, or to allow conversation. When you get right down to it, bingo has never been so clever or looked so good.