We bought three Haba games for our four-year old this Christmas; this one, Socken Zochen, and Zitternix. This is my favorite, and my two-year old is dangerously crazy about the pieces, but my four year old says that although she likes this game it's not as cool as Socken Zochen.
The game consists of 7 different small wooden animals. There are four sets of animals for a total of 28 pieces plus a die and a wooden alligator that forms the base of the stack. They are all quite small, something I realized before ordering, but it really is hard to get the idea of size from the picture, so here are the measurements:
The die, which is larger than standard dice is a .75" square.
Aligator: 4" x 1"
Penguins: 1.25" x .75"
Frilled Lizards: 1.25" x 1"
Hedgehogs: 1.3" x 1.2"
Snakes: 2.8" x .4"
Toucans: 1.4" x 1.25"
Sheep: 1.75" x 1.4"
Monkeys: 1.75" x 1"
The gameplay is as follows:
Seven animals per player, for up to four players. Each players receives one of each kind of animal.
First player rolls the die which has a number of options: A single dot commands you place one animal of your choice, a double dot is two animals of your choice, a crocodile image means you add to the base of the stack, a hand means you give another player your piece to stack (thus meaning that other player will incur the penalty if they knock the tower down), and a '?' which means another player chooses which piece you have to stack next, which means they can of course do you in by choosing a difficult piece, like the sheep who is larger, heavier, and has less grippy edges.
Of course, he who brings down the whole pile is the loser. The winner is the one who uses all their pieces without bringing about animal catastrophe, and if you just knock a couple of pieces down, they just go back in your pile, setting you behind a bit in your mission.
I haven't had the opportunity to attempt to pile the animals on my own (although I'm dying to), but because of that silky-smooth Haba finish and the range of shapes, this game proves to be a bit more difficult than you might imagine. The smallness of the pieces adds to that difficulty, as well. And of course the die adds an unpredictability that ups the challenge as well.
I think this is a great game. The pieces are endlessly appealing, and a very open-ended plaything, as my two year old demonstrated when she dubbed the monkeys 'howler monkeys' and continued to generally disregard most of her other presents to tote these four monkeys around in her new Uncle Goose wagon, and put them to 'bed' on her new Uncle Goose blocks. The monkeys watched her eat lunch, and she would have taken them to bed, but as these pieces are really quite small and a definite choking hazard. They are absolutely a high supervision item with a child under three, or more of an item to keep on a high shelf.
While this game could easily be replicated without actually purchasing it (my kids already stack their animal figurines) the structure of having an actual game to play on this premise is extremely fun. It's a refreshing change in pace for preschool games. So many rely on the *yawn* Candyland luck and chance, roll the die and move forward, boring, boring boring. I like a game that requires skill and planning, and maybe just a touch of luck to mix things up, and this game does all of the above.
I love that this game is made in Germany.
I would highly recommend it to preschoolers well past the mouthing stage; with my only caveat being you might want to hold off if you have younger (below age 3) children, as the appeal is too great and pieces definitely too small.