At its heart, the game is a pick-up-and-deliver game. Each player has to pick up three insects in their own color from a pick-up spot they place on the board and deliver them to three different tree stumps (also in their color) that their opponents place.
None of the twelve echidnas belong to anyone. Anyone can move any of them on their turn, even if their carrying someone else’s insect. The clever bit with movement is that, every odd round, you roll a die that’s numbered two to seven. On the even turns, you move the flip side of what you rolled the previous turn so everyone gets nine moves over the course of two turns. And you can split up the movement points over any number of echidnas.
Anyway, whoever delivers their three insects first wins.
There is no way to talk about Echidna Shuffle without talking about the components. They are fabulous. The chunky plastic echidnas are the size of a child’s fist and as cute as 3/4 of a Winnie the Pooh. (That silly old bear sets a really high bar) As someone who is colorblind, I like that the insects aren’t just different colors but different distinct species. I can see someone buying the game just for the toys and not to play.
The game reminds me a lot of Bruno Faduiti’s China Moon, the game where frogs make a bouquet for a duck. (Honestly, one of the weirder themes that didn’t come from James Ernst.) While players have their own pawns, anyone can move any pawn.
Now, I think that China Moon is the deeper game and one I’d rather play with adults, I think Echidna Shuffle is the better game for kids. In fact, I think it will prove a very good game for kids. It is very simple but it offers real choices and decisions. It’s not an activity but a genuine game.
That said, I think it will only work for adults as a very casual game. I know adult players who would focus on blocking other players rather than making deliveries. And I think that would work as far as frustrating folks plans. Not sure it would let them win unless everyone else rage quits but it wouldn’t be fun.
But we do have a small child so Echidna Shuffle is a game I am very seriously picking up. The toy factor is a huge part of its appeal but there is a decent kids game underneath all those toys.