Monday, May 17, 2010

Board Game Review: Pretty Pretty Princess

Originally posted on BoardGameGeek at:

My biases first: I am a big fan of theme in games and do not mind reaching through piles of chits if the theme and game play is good enough. While I do favor confrontation, chits, bits and polished pieces of AT games, there are still a large number of Euros that I'll build my farm on or attend auctions at and be quite content at the end of my experience. And while I get season passes to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire every year and get dressed up for it, none of my costumes have ever been princess costumes.

Molly likes playing just about any game and is much more open to "house rule" games than her Daddy is. She also enjoys dress up, jewelry and pretending that she is a princess. So, yes, she is a three-year old girl.

The Overview:

The box cover for the non-Disney version (the one we own). Photo by Luminous.

Box contents. Photo by nastycleavage (which incidentally changed my unspoken assumption that in writing a review of "Pretty, Pretty Princess" that I would not be writing the word 'cleavage' in the review).

Pretty Pretty Princess is a children's game aimed at young girls and teaches just the very basics of waiting for your turn, counting spaces, matching, set completion and sharing while indulging in a game of dress-up.

The game is for 2-4 players and plays in about 15-20 minutes. The game is suggested for ages 5 and up, but at three and a half, my daughter has picked up the game and can play and explain it all by herself. Well, her explanations are a bit better in the course of a game, where she can tell you what the effect of the space you've moved onto is. The game would probably even work with kids a bit younger as well, though they would probably need help with number recognition, moving their pawns and not eating the rings. But I'm sure the "dress up" aspect of the game would still be entertaining at earlier ages.

Each player chooses a pawn of one of four colors and places it on one of the spaces on the board at its "home color". Each player takes their turn and spins the spinner, which has spaces numbered one through four. They move forward on the circular board that number of spaces and perform whatever action is on the location they end on.

There are 16 spaces in the circular board path and most of them let you take a piece of jewelry of your color to then wear. There are 2 earrings, 1 ring, 1 necklace and 1 bracelet for each color in the supply. There is also a crown, but there is only one and it is shared by all players. Some of the spaces prompt you to remove a piece of jewelry and put it in the supply again, and some let you choose any piece of jewelry and some make you take the black ring. The black ring is another article of jewelry that is shared by all players, however, if you currently are in possession of the black ring, you cannot win until you get rid of it.

If you land on a crown space (or choose the crown on the take any piece of jewelry space) and another player currently has it on, you take it from them and put it on. The same holds true for the black ring space. So you can get rid of the black ring by either having another player take it from you or landing on the "put any piece of jewelry back" space and dropping the black ring.

The winner of the game is the first person who gets all of the jewelry of their color (2 earrings, necklace, bracelet and ring) and the crown on at the same time while not in possession of the black ring. The winner is declared the Pretty Pretty Princess and can now admire themself in the mirror that adorns the back of the movement spinner.

Molly's House Rules:

The game is very basic and simple and Molly has grasped all of the rules and concepts very quickly during our first game. However, the rules state that you are only supposed to take one earring whenever you land on the earring space and not two. When Molly landed on the earring space on her first game, I told her to take one earring and she countered with, "But I have two ears, Daddy" and gave me an incredulous look. I couldn't really argue with her logic, so we house ruled it and now you get two earrings on that space.

Learning the Game:

The game is listed for 5 and up, but really my 3 year old daughter fully understands the game and plays it by herself. The spaces are illustrated with the jewelry and what you are supposed to do, so reading is not really required with a familiarity with the game. She also can count and recognize numbers from 1 through 4, so she really doesn't have an issue with that.

My assumption is that 5 and up is really more for a fear of those too young putting pieces in their mouth (though even at three, most kids are pretty much past that) and for those that are more unfamiliar with games. My daughter has been gaming since her second birthday, so she's a bit quicker to pick up on games than some.

But anyhow, the game is very easy and simple and quite easy to learn. Five year olds would have no problem at all with it. Judge your child's experience with games and such to determine if they will be able to grasp it at a younger age than that.

The Components:

The board is set up to run a circle of 16 spaces around the central jewelry supply bin. Photo by sisteray.

The movement spinner. On the back of it is the mirror for the winner to admire themselves in. Photo by odinsfirecracker.

The black ring hinders whoever wears it from becoming the Pretty Pretty Princess. Photo by odinsfirecracker.

My daughter adorned as the Pretty Pretty Princess wearing all of the jewelry. Photo by me (thinwhiteduke).

The components of the game are sturdy and gaudy oversized pieces of plastic jewelry. In other words, perfect for dress up. The earrings are clip-on earrings. And while this is expected, as I didn't think the pretty princesses playing would have to pierce their ears, it is nice because the clips seem to secure firm enough without being too tight to pinch and make the children hesitant or afraid to wear them. To date, these are the only clip on fake toy earrings that we've found that my daughter doesn't say hurts her ears.

Each set of jewelry matches the color of the pawn, so there is no real confusion on whose piece belongs to whom. Granted, there is no real consideration taken for a color blind player, but color-blindness is sex-linked and males are more prone to it, so ultimately the game took a gamble on the percentages since the game will appeal predominantly to girls. Plus, other than the black ring and the crown (the unique pieces), you cannot take other player's necklaces or whatever, so as long as you have the right number of pieces, you'll be fine even if they don't match.

The nice thing about the game though, is that my three year old can set up everything by herself. The other nice thing about the game is that a blue (well, more of a cyan) color is included as one of the player options. This gives Daddies who have been suckered into playing this game with their daughters a more manly choice of jewelry colors.

Playing the Game:

Gameplay is all roll and move and is primarily luck driven. The only real strategy choices come from landing on the "take any piece" spaces and taking the crown from another player to block their chances of winning. My three year old figured out that strategy on her own. She plays cutthroat Pretty Pretty Princess.

There is one issue that I have found with the game, however. Players who choose the blue pawn or the green pawn (the more masculine colors in the game) have a distinct, albeit slight, advantage. Each of those colors begin with the "Black Ring" space in their home color. At start, players place their pawns on any space in their "home color field". By placing a pawn on one of these spaces, you eliminate any possibility of drawing a black ring on your first turn. In fact, the only negative space in range from the player's first move from there is the "Put One Piece Back" space. However, if rolled on their first move, it has no effect since you do not have any pieces to lose. The pink and purple players (the more feminine colors) can similarly start on their "negative" spaces (Put One Piece Back), but are in risk of drawing the Black Ring on their first turn. Ultimately, these odds even a bit through the game, but not to a static, completely even level. The slight advantage to the Blue and Green players is present in the game and I think since these are also the "more masculine" colors, it explains why the Daddies and the Pop Pops usually end up covered in more jewels than the kids or the Mommies or Grandmoms playing and why a disproportionate number of our games have ended up with my being the Pretty Pretty Princess.

The effect of "Pop Pop" choosing the "masculine" color blue. He's the Pretty Pretty Princess. Photo by a terrible cell phone camera.


The game is for 2-4 players and there are no rules changes for the differing number of players. It scales perfectly fine and my daughter even entertains herself with a non-competitive solo game from time to time. It's all about the dress up, not the mechanics.

Does the Wife Little Girl Like It?:

The most important category, since this is a kid's game. She'll play anything, but it depends on her level of comprehension of the actual game on how closely we will play by the real rules instead of her taking the pawns or figures and making them have a tea party or something. That being said, she fully comprehends the rules of the game (well enough to play by herself) and absolutely loves it. She does not mind losing, as she has fun throughout. And this is good since Daddy wins this game far too often for his ego to really take.

This is a game of dress up with gaudy plastic jewelry. And there is a plastic princess crown in the game that you can wear. It is hard for a three year old girl not to love this game.

The Pros:

*A simple game of dress up that knows how to win over its target audience.
*The game is easy enough for kids to learn and play unsupervised.
*Blue is included as a color to help the fragile egos of the males playing the game.
*Components are perfect for what they are.
*Good theme for holding interest to teach basic counting and turn taking.
*Quick gameplay means it holds the attention of younger players and limits the length of time that Daddies need to be wearing gaudy earrings.

The Cons:

*The "masculine" colors (blue and green) have a slight edge in the game, resulting in a disproportionate number of Daddies being named the Pretty Pretty Princess.
*No real strategy or choices, just roll and move.
*Plays into young girl stereotypes, reinforcing them somewhat.

In Molly's Words:

Since Molly is too young to read, let alone type, the rest of the review will be written in question and answer form. Molly is next to my computer and I'll be transcribing what she says and will format and add it after.

Chuckie: What do you think of the game "Pretty Pretty Princess"?
Molly: Well, I think everyone is going to like it.

Chuckie: So, you like the game?
Molly: Yeah, everyone likes it.

Chuckie: What do you like most about the game, Pixie?
Molly:Um, well... well... That it makes me proud.
Chuckie: What makes you proud?
Molly: The game.
Chuckie: Why does the game make you proud, Sweetie?
Molly: Because lots of times I win. I didn't know that I could win that game and when I do I get proud.

Chuckie: So, how do you play the game?
Molly: You have to set all of the board pieces out. Then... then... then what? Um, then you have to get all your people out to pick which kind. Then you have to spin to walk the people to get the jewelry.

Chuckie: How do you win the game?
Molly: If you get all the pieces.

Chuckie: What pieces are in the game?
Molly: Um, mean the pieces? All of them? There's pink people, purple people, green people and blue people and you have the crown in it and the necklace in it and the bracelet and the ring and the necklace and the black ring. The black ring is bad, Daddy.

Chuckie: How old do you think you have to be to play the game, Pixie?
Molly: Um, I don't know. Maybe like 3. Or 7 or 8. Or 2 or 1. Or 50 years old. Daddy, I wish I could be 17.

Chuckie: Why do you want to be 17?
Molly: Because I can play lots of games so I get some high scores to beat the monsters.

Chuckie: You need high scores to fight the monsters?
Molly: No, Daddy. So I can just have some high scores. And when I'm 17, I can have big monster feet. Hey, Daddy, look how big my muscles are. (She bends her arms back to show off her muscles and I give a small "wow" at the size of her muscles.) I'm going to show Mommy how big my muscles are. (She then runs off to go show my wife how big her muscles are. Molly returns a few moments later.

Chuckie: So, do you think this game is for boys or for girls or for both?
Molly: Um, boys and girls. Boys would like it. Girls would like it too.

Chuckie: So, how would you rate this game, Pixie?
Molly: I want to do my stars and moons and suns now.

Chuckie: Okay, how many stars would you give it?
Molly: Um, five.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of six. Oh and Daddy, the moons!

Chuckie: Okay, how many moons would you give the game?
Molly: Um, six. Out of seven. And six suns. Out of twenty. Oh, and Daddy, when one of my friends talked to me and said something to me, I said "Hello?!?" and that cracked me up.

Chuckie: Um, okay. Uh, so who do you think would like to play "Pretty Pretty Princess"?
Molly: I think Ellen Wilkenson.

Chuckie: No, no, Sweetie. I mean what kinds of people.
Molly: I want to do what kind of kids. And I think Grandmom and Pop pop too.

Chuckie: Do you think the game is too hard?
Molly: Yeah, but not for me.

Chuckie: Do you think the game is too easy?
Molly: Yeah, but not for me. It's a little too easy and a little too hard.

Chuckie: Is there anything else that you'd like to tell people about the game?
Molly: Um, well, I love it.


Pretty Pretty Princess is a great game for young girls. Gameplay is really simplistic and it is completely random for play and winning (though with that slight edge for the "masculine colors"). My daughter is capable of more complex games, but she loves the dress up aspect of this game. It plays a little into and somewhat reinforces the little girl stereotype and I would like to see a game designed for girls with a little more depth and strategy. But if you have other games for your daughter to play besides this one, it isn't bad to pull out and just have some fun with without thinking too hard about it.

Once again, the risk of playing blue. Photo by my wife.


Five out of six stars.
Six out of seven moons.
Six out of twenty suns.

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