Shaky Manor (Brandon Kempf)
Designed by Asger Harding Granerud & Daniel Skjold Pederson
Artwork by Etienne Hebinger
Published by Blue Orange Games
The What Did You Play This Week Podcast was provided with a review copy of Shaky Manor by the publisher, Blue Orange Games, in return for an honest review.
Haunted houses, or Spooky manors make for a fun theme in games, or life in general. We loved those houses that pop up around Halloween time as kids and now my kids are enjoying them as well. I also loved those weird fun houses that would pop up as well, which were as much a dextrous affair as they were a thrill. Combine them and put them on the table and you have Shaky Manor.
In Shaky Manor, each player has a manor box which is divided into eight different rooms with doorways between each room. In this Manor, you are going to have a player meeple, ghosts, eyeballs, spiders, snakes and some treasure chests. The object of the game is to get the correct pieces/objects into the correct room without any of the incorrect objects by shaking and tilting and twisting and bouncing the manor. Now, out of the box there are 3 different ways to play, we’ll cover the basic way to play and then I’ll tell you about the variants a bit after. At the start of the game, you shuffle the deck of room cards and place them in a pile in the middle of the table with the objects side up. Then each player is going to take the starting pieces for their Manor and place them in the Manor box randomly, just drop them in.
To start the round, everyone is supposed to pass their Manor to the player on the right so they can shuffle everything around. We rarely did that and just trusted ourselves to shake everything up. Then one player is going to turn over the top card of the deck and it will reveal the room that you are racing to get your meeple, and three treasure chests to without any of the other things. When a player successfully accomplishes this, they sit their Manor down and everyone verifies that they were successful. If they are successful, the successful player takes that card to notate that they have successfully won one round. Then the player to the right of that player, or everyone at the table, gets to choose one of the other items to go into that player’s Manor for the rest of the game thus making it a bit more difficult for them to be successful the next round. The first player to get five cards, wins the game.
Now as for the variants, the cards are two sided, one side has the rooms and the other side has random objects. If using the variant at the start of the game each player puts all of their objects in their Manor and the deck of cards starts with the room sides up. A player flips over a card to see the random objects and the players then race to get those objects into the room that is showing on the top of the deck. Or the other variant is to do the same thing except DON’T get those objects in that room, you want everything else.
Shaky Manor was nominated for the Kinderspiel des Jahres, it ultimately didn’t win, but was one of the three finalists this year and it absolutely deserved it. It’s a really fun dexterity game that all ages can enjoy, but it is kind of squarely aimed towards the younger ages.
Components are extremely important in dexterity games where there is a lot of handling, especially handling by children and the components in Shaky Manor seem to be able to live up to the rough play. The Manors themselves are sturdy boxes with likewise sturdy dividers making up the rooms. The items that are in the manor are good quality items, I love the little plastic-y spiders and the eyeballs that roll around entirely too easily and seemingly can fit through any doorway regardless of what you have in their path, but they can probably be easily lost, so you better keep your eye on them.
The variant ways to play Shaky Manor can take the game from a really fun, light-hearted dexterity game, to some really frustrating and almost thinky game play. That third variant where you want everything except the items on the card can kind of trick your mind, especially if you have been playing it other ways up until that play. In a good way. You are playing the game exactly the same, you just have to use your brain a bit differently and that can keep things fresh. We’ve tried it with a mix of the variants, half the cards one way, the other half the other way, just to keep us on our toes and even had a great time playing that way as well.
Make no mistake, Shaky Manor is primarily made with families in mind, but don’t hesitate to give it a try regardless of who you are. It really is a wonderfully put together dexterity game. There are lots of aggravating instances that can occur — snakes blocking doorways or things being stuck and you just not knowing which way to shake the manor — but amidst all of that is a lot of laughs and a lot of fun.