Pros: Simple, yet challenging, affordable, fun for all ages
Cons: Cards are a bit large for young children to hold
I'm always on the look out for cheap travel size games to keep my kids distracted and diverted when we are on the road. One day on a whirlwind last minute trip to Target, I spied the I Spy Go Fish Card Game and snapped it up on a whim. I Spy books and puzzles have always been a huge hit with our family so I figured this would be a pretty safe bet.
Now the challenge is how to write a typical Dr_Steph dissertation on such a very simple game. You, dear reader, may actually luck out this time and be treated to a reasonable length review.
What is the "I Spy Go Fish Card Game"?
As the name implies, this is a card game for "Go Fish." OK, well, that's it - the end.
Huh? You really want to know more?
OK, this game from Briarpatch comes with 48 jumbo size cards (4 1/2" x 3") plus an instruction card. The backs of the cards are blue and white with "Briarpatch" printed all over them. At the center of the back is a large magnifying glass with "I Spy Card Game" printed inside of it.
On the fronts of the card are 24 sets of items. The items include a doll, helicopter, dinosaur, school bus, pine cone, horse, toy race car, butterfly, fish, shell, frog, crab, chair, bicycle, bee, duck, dog, monkey, clown, fire engine, rabbit, telephone, key, and yo-yo.
What makes this "Go Fish" game stick out from the rest of the school are the classic "I Spy" images. Instead of a clean and simple set of matching cards, each card in the pair includes a copy of the matching image embedded in a mix of other images and backgrounds.
To make it even more interesting, the matching images don't exactly match. They represent the same item but in all cases they are displayed in different ways from each other. For example, the "doll" card has a brunette doll with a red sweater, white collar and blue trim. In one card, the doll is sitting in the background facing forward with a deer and Santa toy in front of it and a candle and nutcracker behind it. In the other card, the doll is turned at an angle with presents and Christmas wrapping behind it.
The diversity of images, backgrounds, and themes make this a much more stimulating and challenging game than your run-of-the-mill "Go Fish" game. There are times, in fact, when it's not entirely clear which image is being featured on the card. However, after a game or two you catch on pretty quickly.
Playing the Game at Dr_Steph's House
The rules for this game are pretty standard for "Go Fish". You deal out 7 cards to two or more players. If 7 cards are too many for little hands, then you can hand out only 5 or 6 a piece. The first player asks another player if they have a card that matches a specific one from their hand. If the other player does have the card, they hand it over and a pair is made. Then the first player takes another turn. If they don't have the card, the other player says "Go fish" and the first player draws a card from the remaining cards which are placed upside down in the center of the group. If they draw the match they are looking for, they go again. The object of the game is to get the greatest number of pairs by the time that all the cards have been played.
We've found that the cards are a bit big for little kids so they tend to need help in fanning them out, holding them and sorting through them. In the beginning, our kids tended to careless about hiding their cards but eventually they caught on.
I've been pleasantly surprised at the variety of skills and knowledge that my kids have gained from this game. At the very least, they learn the rules of game-playing: Taking turns, playing fairly, following the rules, cooperating, and being a good winner/loser. That alone would be enough. However, there are even more advantages to this game.
Because of the unique format of these cards, kids have to do more than memorize an image - they have to learn the greater concept or identity behind the image. They also get practice at tactical and strategic thinking. Other skills addressed by the I Spy Go Fish Card Game are listening skills, visual discrimination, memory, manual dexterity, vocabulary, and language skills.
Speaking about language skills, one of the big challenges we've faced with our kids is getting them to say "Do you HAVE a fish?" versus "Do you GOT a fish?" Practice with this game and repeated feedback (i.e. nagging) from us has helped improve their language usage.
Recommend Uses for This Game
Other than the classic "Go Fish" game, you can use these cards to play "Concentration" or "Memory" by putting all of them (or a subset) face down and looking for pairs. This is surprisingly complicated because of the varied backgrounds and positioning of objects.
What I don't recommend is using this as a travel toy for young children. There are too many cards to keep track of and they are a hassle to pick up off the floor of the plane (trust me on this). Fortunately, Briarpatch has a long tradition of replacing any lost parts or cards from their games, as long as you can adequately describe them. We haven't had to take advantage of this service yet, though I wouldn't be surprised if we do soon.
I Spy Go Fish Card Game is a remarkably simple and surprisingly challenging "Go Fish" game that is fun for both kids and adults. It's hard to go wrong with this one.
Game author: Martine Redman
1998 by Briarpatch, Inc.
150 Essex Street Suite 301
Milburn, NJ 07041