Sharing is a wonderful concept to live by and teach our kids. It promotes cooperation, sacrifice, kindness, peace, and harmony. After all, it is better to give than to receive, we’re told. But when you’re talking cookies? Well, now that’s a whole different ball game. And when there aren’t enough of the little delectable baked goodies to go around, then you best lay your hands off of mine!
How it Plays
In this deliciously simple game, players quickly try to deduce and declare the location of two cookies amidst a scattering of crumbs. However, just like any good recipe, there is a critical step in the way you make a declaration.
The game comes with 18 cards – 3 cookies and 15 crumbs. In a 3-6 player game, you use 2 of the cookies, while with 7-8, you’ll include all three. Then add crumbs so that you have a deck equal to the number of players plus two additional cards. Shuffle these, deal two per player and then a pair to the middle of the table. Each dessert investigator may look at the two cards in front of them and then the game’s afoot!
On your turn, you can take one of four actions. You can peak at any one card on the table. You can swap any two cards. You can pick up the pair in the center, shuffle them, place them back down, and look at one. Or you can make a declaration. All of the peaking and swapping and shuffling amount to, of course, an attempt at finding one or more cookies. And by observing the actions of your fellow sweets sleuths, you may deduce some other useful information.
When you think you’ve discovered the Great Cookie Caper, you can expose the sugary hands involved. But there is a catch. If you’re holding one cookie, you cannot make a declaration with that cookie. You must either pass it off to some one else, or acquire a second one, as well. The same rule applies with cookies in the center. To successfully declare from the middle, the pair of cards must contain both treats.
When making a declaration, pick-up the two cards secretly to make sure you’re correct. If you chose poorly, replace them, reveal the cards in front of you, and then you’re out of the game. If you chose wisely, then you win and don’t even have to share!
Fresh-Baked or Stale?
One children’s book that has always been popular at our house is an infectiously rhyming ditty called Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar? Most kids are probably familiar with the book or the rhyme. As such, this whimsical, little theme is perfect to hook them from the start.
Now, Who Stole the Cookie? could be played among adults as a filler game. It’s very quick and easy. But it is also extremely light and sugary. Even when looking for a social, deduction-style, micro game, mature players will more likely gravitate towards titles like Love Letter, Coup, or one of the many Werewolf clones. For kids, however, it is a near perfect introduction to the genre.
That is because the design is beyond simple and straight-forward. While searching for the cookies, you have three actions to choose from. They are intuitive and quick to resolve. However, the mechanic by which you may not make a declaration if you only have one cookie – or if only one of the two you pick is in the center – promotes some thinking and bluffing. If you only have one of the baked delights, then you either need to slough it off on someone else, or gather the second as soon and slyly as possible. Then again, if one or more opponents realize what you’re up to, then you need to trick them into which course of action you’re gaming, without setting them up for an easy declaration. The situation can soon develop into the Princess Bride’s “clearly I cannot choose the glass in front of me” scenario.
Adults will grasp that nuanced play much quicker, but it will take kids some sessions to grok – the younger, the longer. But that’s okay, again, an introductory title. For example, the first trial runs may prove to be a “peak-fest” as kids feel more comfortable knowing what’s where, rather than reading their opponents’ actions, which is more uncertain. They may also likely feel the need to collect both cookies in order to make a declaration, when that is usually more difficult to do. Finally, younger players will often neglect the usefulness of shuffling the two center cards, which can generally throw off everyone else’s recollections. Working with your children through these various elements of deduction games – bluffing, playing for keeps, and reading your opponents – is rewarding. Since the design offers a touch more than just flipping cards, it is also actually enjoyable for the whole family.
Who Stole the Cookie? is easily portable. The 18 cards fit in a C-fold envelope inside a sleeve, so that the whole “package” is not much larger then the size of the cards themselves. The card stock is adequate, but not up to par with what gamers are familiar. It’s inexpensive enough, though, to prove a good value. Set with a different theme, it’d probably find more plays as a filler within gamer circles.
By design, there’s not a lot to Who Stole the Cookie? I’m not trying to say it’s strategic and has tons to offer. It’s meant to be light and fast. Seasoned players will not likely return to it over and over again. However, its ease and accessibility are precisely what make it a great entry into deduction games. That said, it’s a wonderful title for the whole family, because there’s just enough thinking and bluffing and tricking to make it interesting for both young and old to play together. And that will have kids eating this stuff up. The game, that is. Don’t really eat the cards…
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Victory Point Games for providing a review copy of Who Stole the Cookie?