Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday 5 June 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Tucano

Game: Tucano

Publisher: Helvetiq

Designer: Théo Rivière

Year: 2021
Tucano - flat box
Tucano is another lovely looking game from publisher Helvetiq. Most Helvetiq games are unified by their small box size, and eye-catching bold artwork, which makes them a perfect pick for toy stores, gift shops or other places where you might not find modern board games on sale. It always makes me happy to spot a stand full of colourful Helvetiq games in an unusual shop, just imagining that they might be an avenue into some new and interesting modern board games for those on the look out for a pocket-sized gift.

Tucano is a family game for 2-4 players, in which players will be collecting tasty (and adorable) fruits into sets to try and score points, but the toucans who live in the forest might have other plans, swooping in towards the end of the game to steal, or gift fruits to or from other players around the table.

At the start of a game of Tucano the deck of fruit cards is shuffled then seeded to have toucan cards only in the lower half. After this cards are dealt to create a market of three face-up stacks. On a player's turn they will take one of these stacks and then draw an additional card from the deck on top of each stacks. As this continues some stacks may remain at low card counts, while stacks with less desirable cards will get bigger and bigger until someone decides to grab them. 

Most of the cards are fruit, these all have their own unique scoring mechanics, but are typically based on set collection. Some of them you want to have the full set, some you want to have only one or two of the set to maximise your points and many give you negative points should you have too many. In the latter half of the game the toucans will start to show. These let you gift/steal/protect your fruits. Gifting a fruit lets you give an opponent one of your fruits of your choice, perfect for that sour lime! Stealing fruits lets you take a juicy prospect from an opponent. Protecting your fruit means turning all your owned fruit upside down, meaning no-one can steal it, but I hope you remember what you had! 
The game ends once the deck is emptied and only one stack remains in the centre, at which point players calculate the scores of all the fruit they own.

Amy’s Final Thoughts
Tucano is a super light set collection game that adds a nice bit of spice with so many of the sets being (potentially) negative. This means that the three piles can be filled with delicious fruit for one player, which actually might be poisonous for their opponents. At lower count games this can allow for some interesting choices in terms of seeing how far your opponent will go before resorting to picking fruit that's bad for them. However at higher player counts the game moves too fast for this to be as much of a factor. My concern is that there are a few too many negative fruits. Often your choice can come down to "which pile is the least bad" rather than which pile is the best. In theory that's the same choice, but it's simply less fun to choose how to least lose points rather than most gain them. 
The mechanics of  Tucano are simple, but that's to the games credit and scoring mechanics are printed on every card so informed choices are easy to make. Learning the game is a breeze which makes Tucano a fantastic filler/warmup game for a lighter game night. The toucans that appear in the later round further appeal to the light-game audience, the ability to steal people's hard earned fruits can be a problem at lower player counts where one player can easily be victimised due to luck of the draw, but at larger player count games it will often end up with the valuable fruit rotating around the table as people fight to be the final owner. 
Tucano is not an earth-shattering revolution in the board gaming world, but it was never trying to be. It's a quick to learn game that's great for people who want a fast, light-hearted experience with just a hint of meanness thrown in. That's not what I typically look for in games, but I can't deny that I had fun even so. Tucano is exactly what it tries to be, a cute, quick experience that brings a few smiles and then is done.

Fi’s Final Thoughts
Tucano is a far more simple game that most of those we play. It's a filler and a very quick one at that - we most recently played it while waiting for takeaway pizza to arrive! The game is incredibly easy to learn, and set collection is a very familiar concept to most people who have ever played a card game, but the secret ingredient is really in the scoring. While some fruits reward you more highly for having more, others give you the most points if you only have a single card in that type. Some are just all round negative, and others have you competing with other players to have the most of that type. It's interesting how some cards are bad for everyone, whilst other cards are only bad for some players, based on what they've already collected. It really adds a lot more interest to the decision of while pile of cards to take, and even taking a bad card or two should be solved if you can gift them to someone else, using a toucan card later in the game.

I really enjoyed introducing this one to friends, not least because I got to introduce them to all of the 'unique' names we've given to the cards, 'Grumpy Coconut', 'Alien Berry', 'Happy Star' and many of the other characters are just too cute not to name, but if you did want to learn the names of the more exotic fruit, then they are listen in the rulebook! The actually gameplay with four players was less to my taste  because I felt really out of control. In a two-player game one of the options you don't choose on your turn will still be there on your next turn (with two extra cards added), whereas with four players, some cards you might really want are gone very quickly. The risk and opportunities are also a little more muted with more players since it's less likely someone will collect all of the good cards or be forced to take all of the bad cards, which just makes the game feel more bland for me.

I don't think that Tucano will spark the long term interest of many gamers, but it's very charming and has a little bit extra going on that a simple set collection game might otherwise. It's cute and accessible and I hope that many families find it to be a nice travel companion.

You Might Like...
  • The game has a nice change of pace when you reach the toucan cards half way through.
  • The different types of scoring create a nice mixture of cards you do and don't want to collect.
  • The artwork is very cute, and while it's easy to come up with your own name for each fruit, you could also take the chance to learn the names of some exotic fruits!
You Might Not Like...
  • Player count completely changes the game experience and we found that certain player counts catered better to different tastes.
  • As you might expect, this is a very light game, that may not satisfy frequent gamers.

The Verdict
6/10 Tucano is a very simple game, but it is not trying to be anything else. It's a small box with endearing artwork for a a family audience. If you like Sushi Go or many classic card games, then Tucano might be a nice alternative. If you're a frequent gamer then you might find this one a little too random and you may not find enough depth here. Tucano is a cute package for a light set collection game.

Tucano was a review copy kindly provided to us by Helvetiq.

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