Summer is approaching so today I am looking at one of Blue Orange Games latest board games Pool Party. The premise behind Pool Party is that each player controls a team of divers. The teams are competing in a cannon ball contest but they have decided to have it in a pool that is not large enough to fit all of the competitors. Since all of the competitors can’t fit in the pool, the players are competing to get enough of their divers into the pool before their divers start falling out of the pool. Pool Party shares a lot in common with a lot of other family dexterity games but it has enough unique twists to make it an interesting experience.
We would like to thank Blue Orange Games for the review copy of Pool Party used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
How to Play Pool Party
- Assemble the pool by inserting the spring into the base and the pool into the spring.
- Each player chooses a color and takes the nine divers of that color.
Playing the Game
The youngest player starts each round by yelling out “cannonball”.
All of the players will play at the same time. Players line up one of their divers and press down on the back of it. When they are ready to shoot they slide their finger off the diver which will launch it into the air.
The goal of the game is to get your diver to land and stay in the pool. All divers that miss the pool or fall out, can be gathered up by the player that controls that color and shot again.
The round ends when one player has three (four in a two player game) of their divers in the pool at the same time.
After a player has won a round, all of the players take back all of their divers. Another round is then played.
Winning the Game
The first player to win three rounds wins the game.
My Thoughts on Pool Party
While this is way off topic, I have to admit that the first thing that came to my mind when I saw Pool Party is that the pool looks a lot like a martini glass. I wasn’t the only player that made this observation either. While it might be the oddest looking pool that no logical person would ever build in real life, the “martini glass” shape is actually vital to the game. Basically the pool consists of three parts: a base, a spring, and the pool itself. The spring connects the base to the pool and is responsible for Pool Party’s most unique mechanic.
What is unique about the spring is that it allows the pool to tilt in all directions. When a lot of divers are in the pool they can tilt the pool enough that some of the divers will fall out of the pool. This is actually a pretty interesting mechanic as I really haven’t seen it used in any of these type of dexterity games before. While it adds some randomness/luck to the game, I like the mechanic. It keeps the game interesting and forces players to shoot somewhat quickly in order to try and get three of their divers into the pool before their divers that are already in the pool fall out. At times the pool can tilt quite a bit which can force players to alter their shots.
There were occasions where divers slid out of the pool due to it tipping too much but it wasn’t as prevalent as I was expecting. I think this was mostly due to the divers mostly settling in the middle of the pool which prevented the pool from tilting as much as it otherwise would have. I think more divers were knocked out of the pool due to another player hitting them with a diver they just shot. This actually happened quite a bit. There were even some midair collisions where two divers hit each which prevented either from reaching the pool.
When I saw pictures and videos of Pool Party I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about how well the divers would work. Most of these type of games feature some sort of launcher and yet Pool Party works by pressing down on the back of the divers. From the pictures the divers looked kind of thin so I worried that they were not going to work very well. While the divers are made of plastic it is actually pretty thick and sturdier than I was expecting. They might not be the most aerodynamic shape but they actually fly quite a bit better than I was expecting. When you first take them out of the box they don’t always fly that high but that can be fixed by creasing them more. I have to say that I was actually quite surprised by how high they can fly when you crease them more and apply the right amount of pressure.
While I was impressed by the quality of the divers I have to say that I am a little concerned about their durability. I could see the divers breaking after a while if players are too rough on them. If you take care of them I think they will last a long time. If you are rough with them and press down on them too hard, I could see the hinges on the divers eventually starting to wear down and eventually breaking. Once a diver breaks I don’t really see a way for you to be able to repair them. The good news is that the game gives each player nine divers and you usually don’t need all nine divers. If you eventually break a couple divers it probably won’t impact the game too much.
Outside of the tilting gameboard and the unique way you launch the divers, Pool Party plays a lot like most of these type of dexterity games. You launch the divers at the pool hoping to get three of yours in the pool before the other players. While this is a fun mechanic, there are quite a few other games with a similar concept. If you have never really cared for these type of games I don’t see Pool Party changing your mind. If you like these type of games though I see no reason why you won’t also enjoy Pool Party. I know I had fun playing the game.
As the game mostly entails just pressing down on your divers to launch them towards the pool, Pool Party is the type of game that everyone can play. The game has a recommended age of 6+ but I think children a little younger would also be able to play the game. The game is mostly made for families with children but the game can still be enjoyable for adults who like these type of games. I think it will work best with adults that don’t play a lot of board games as the game’s simplicity won’t intimidate them.
For most of these type of dexterity games I would say that they rely more on luck than skill. In the case of Pool Party I think it is a split pretty evenly between skill and luck. With these type of games there is always going to be some luck involved because there is no way you are always going to be able to tell how the objects are going to fly through the air. The divers in Pool Party aren’t highly aerodynamic so you will have to rely on some luck for them to land in the pool.
While luck plays a role in Pool Party, there is actually a decent amount of skill involved as well. I know there is skill involved because some players just seemed to be better at the game than others. For example in one round a player was able to make their first three shots and won the round almost as soon as it began. You might think this was just a fluke but this player consistently either won or had the second most divers in the pool at the end of a round. Pool Party is the type of game that some people will be better at but I also think it is possible to improve the more you play the game.
Pool Party has a estimated length of ten minutes which seems pretty accurate even though some games will take even less time. I would say most rounds of the game will take between one to three minutes to complete. Therefore if one player dominates a game I could see it only taking around five minutes. While I can see the game not being designed to take 30 minutes, I think the game would have been better at around fifteen minutes. Unless you prefer a couple shorter games, I think it would be better for players to have to win five rounds as it gives players more opportunities to catch up. When a player only needs to win three rounds to win the game, a lucky player could win the game before the other players even have a chance to catch up. At five rounds a player will need more sustained success to win the game.
While I wish Pool Party was a little longer I am glad that it is still short. Like a lot of these type of dexterity games, Pool Party is more of a game that you play in short doses rather than something you play for long stretches of time. In general I see it as the type of game that you play for 20-30 minutes and then put away for another day. With each game lasting around ten minutes this means you should be able to finish around three games before the game gets a little repetitive. After like 30 minutes the game will feel a little repetitive where you probably won’t want to play another game for a while.
One of the biggest problems that I have always had with this type of dexterity game is that the objects seem to fly everywhere. This requires you to scramble to pick them up from the floor. Players are then forced to waste a bunch of time picking up other player’s objects instead of shooting themselves. While Pool Party is also guilty of having objects fly all over the place, I don’t think it is as bad as it is in a lot of other games. I attribute this mostly to how many divers each player is given. Since each player is given nine divers and only have to get three in the pool in order to win a round, it means that a player can win without having to pick up any of their divers. When players do have to pick up divers they usually only have to pick up a couple from the table near the pool in order to win the round. After the round is over players will still have to pick up the divers but there isn’t the hassle of having to pass out divers while players are still shooting.
On the component front Pool Party is on par with most Blue Orange Games. For the price I have always thought Blue Orange Games does a good job including high quality components for their games. I already mentioned that the divers are thicker and work better than I anticipated. I am a little concerned about their longevity but if you take care of them they should last. I do think the divers should have been solid colors instead of semi-transparent though because it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between the red and purple divers. In general I really like the game’s cartoony artwork style. The pool is also quite sturdy.
Should You Buy Pool Party?
At its core Pool Party shares a lot in common with your typical launching dexterity game. The goal of the game is to launch your divers at the pool and be the first player to get three divers to stay in the pool. While this mechanic is fun, there have been quite a few other games that have used a similar mechanic. The thing that differentiates Pool Party the most from these other games is that the gameboard can tilt based on how many divers are in the pool. This leads to divers sliding out of the pool from time to time. It also is not that difficult to knock another player’s diver out of the pool. Before playing the game I was skeptical on how well the divers were going to work and they ended up working better than I expected. There is some luck involved with shooting them but there is also a decent amount of skill involved. I am a little concerned about how long they will last though if players aren’t careful with them. Like most of the games in this genre, I enjoyed Pool Party but it is also one of those games where it is better in shorter doses.
Basically whether you should purchase Pool Party comes down to whether you like these type of dexterity games. If you don’t really care for them, Pool Party is probably not going to be for you. If you like these type of dexterity games, I see no reason why you wouldn’t have fun with Pool Party. If you already have several of these type of games though and don’t really care about the tilting pool mechanic, you might be better off sticking with the games you already own. If the game’s concept interests you though, I think you can have quite a bit of fun with Pool Party.