Queen Esther and the Dancing Dreidels is one in a series of three Jewish Holiday games designed by Flaster Siskin. This Purim themed, roll and move, set collection game is the simplest of these three holiday games, and, with it’s pink box and dress the queen theme, is clearly aimed at the “Pretty, Pretty Princess” crowd.
The object of Queen Esther and the Dancing Dreidels is to flip over 5 puzzle-like Apparel tiles, which, when assembled, create a picture of Queen Esther dressed in her finest gown and jewels. Players move around a circular board collecting sets of Plot cards, which picture a section of Haman's hat. Players must match up a set of 3 cards to form a complete hat. These sets can then be exchanged for Hamantaschen tokens, which in turn can then be spent to flip an Apparel tile. Additionally, players can flip an Apparal tile every time their pawn passes the starting space.
A dreidel is rolled like a 4 sided die to move around the board. Each of the 6 spaces on the board allows the player who lands there to take a special action. Players can use Maiden cards to add or subtract from their movement, allowing them some limited control over which space they land on. Unlike many mainstream children's games, none of the spaces have negative consequences, and most allow the player to win or buy something. Two of the spaces are interactive. One allows the player to challenge another player to a roll off in an attempt to ‘steal’ Plot cards or Hamantaschen tokens. The other triggers a battling tops type competition where players compete to win Plot cards.
Although Queen Esther and the Dancing Dreidels has little to recommend it to an adult gamer, its simple rules, frequent rewards, low frustration factor, and very short playing time makes it well suited for young children. Unlike other mainstream children’s games, Queen Esther and the Dancing Dreidels allows players to make some limited decisions regarding their movement; provides the opportunity for player interaction through challenges and card play; and avoids the endless loop phenomena that is present in many classic children’s games such as Chutes and Ladders and Hi-Ho-Cherrio. The fact that players can flip an Apparel tile each time they pass the start space ensures that the game will typically last no longer than 20 minutes, which is an appropriate game length for young children. Queen Esther and the Dancing Dreidels incorporates several engaging hands on activities – assembling puzzles, spinning tops, and getting a variety of ‘stuff’ nearly every turn. The battling tops activity is particularly inspired as it affords the fidgety child the opportunity to stand up and move around every few minutes.
Unfortunately Queen Esther and the Dancing Dreidels has a few flaws that makes it less accessble than it should be. The actions that you can take on each space are neither written on the board spaces, nor are they well communicated through the board space graphics. Furthermore, three of the six board spaces have the word ‘dance’ in the title - “Keep Dancing,” Dreidel Dance Off,” and “Group Dreidel Dance.” All three of these spaces have pictures of women dancing on them. Although there are only 6 spaces, this has proven to be an obstacle with young, impatient players, as a “good reader” must repeatedly consult the rules regarding what action can be taken on each space, until all the children have memorized the spaces. Even when children have memorized the non-dance spaces, there has continued to be some confusion regarding which dance space is which, resulting in arguments that require consulting the rules again. The Maiden Cards also require basic reading skills and the graphics are not unique enough to be easily memorized. Combining simple game play and hands-on activities typically enjoyed by younger children, while requiring that players know how to read severely limits the age range for which Queen Esther and the Dancing Dreidels would be both appropriate and enjoyable. This is unfortunate, and could easily have been avoided with better graphic design and naming conventions.
Despite these shortcomings and the fact that I no longer have the need to entertain young children in my home on the holidays, I am overjoyed to own a copy of Queen Esther and the Dancing Dreidels and am considering purchasing additional copies. Why you ask? For those in the know, I can answer in two words – Purim Carnival. Queen Esther and the Dancing Dreidels means never having to clean up glitter, glue, jam, or water balloons when roped into manning a booth at Purim Carnival. At $20 or less per copy, even if the kids show up at my booth covered in jam and glitter, I can toss a copy of the game post party, buy a new copy for next year, and still have spent less money than running the Make Your Own Hamantaschen booth.
Happy Purim to those that celebrate.
Ameritrash note: Purim is a spring holiday on which it is a duty to make oneself "fragrant with wine," or in other words, become stinking drunk. Purim Carnival is big community party for children where parents "volunteer" to run activity booths or tables. Typically this includes arts & crafts, making cookies, water balloon toss, and the like. Purium Carnival is particularly brutal when it is takes place the morning after Purim.