Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland is one of the few animated classics from its era to remain unscathed when re-watching it with our kids. It doesn’t have to be prefaced with a warning that ideas and standards have changed, it just has to be prefaced with the warning that Lewis Carroll had a wild imagination. I have sung “A very merry unbirthday to you” almost as many times in my life as I have sung Happy Birthday, and so I expected to be thoroughly delighted with the new Disney game from Funko based on that delightful interlude with the Mad Hatter. Spoiler alert, I was thoroughly delighted.
Mad Tea Party is a card based stacking game, in which you stack tea cups on the table based on the cards in your hand. Special cards may give you an advantage, or take an advantage away.
Tea Party Table and base
This is yet another beautifully made game from Funko. The artwork from the original Alice in Wonderland movie has been embellished with watercolor edging, that just makes it more delightful. All the components are plastic, I can’t help feeling that a wooden version of this game would be amazing. But it is good plastic, and the design on the cups doesn’t scratch off. Though they probably aren’t dishwasher safe, ahem. The tea inside the cups is decidedly the wrong color for a good cup in my English hometown or American household. I’d have to meet the tea drinker responsible for the coloring to determine how they enjoy their tea in order to better judge this choice. Needs a splash more milk for my taste.
The box is great, beautiful cover with just the right amount of gold foil, but the inside is the real prize winner. A space for the table, a cut out spot for cards, a section for big teacups, and a criss-cross section with handle gaps for smaller cups. My daughter has just as much fun cleaning this game up as she does playing it. Now that right there is a golden ticket to the hearts of parents worldwide.
It’s a game about the Mad Hatter’s tea party, and so the characters included and excluded are appropriate. It’s so delightful howeve, that it just makes me want more from Wonderland. I long for the flowers, the playing cards, the adorably tiny King.
Who you are playing with will determine how you set up the game. If you have younger players, or just want a little less challenge, then you will set the table up without the wobbly table base. Placing the table directly on a flat surface will change how you play the game and place your teacups. I would advise just using the wobbly base, as it is not as wobbly as you think it’s going to be, and for the most part the kids enjoy when everything comes crashing down. If you have a child who is sensitive to crashing, things falling down, or “losing” then the game can be played and enjoyed perfectly well without the base.
Once your base is set up, you need to make sure everyone has access to all the teacups, and deal 6 cards to each player. The remaining cards will form the draw pile, and should have enough space close by for a discard pile.
How Do You Play Mad Tea Party?
I will always go first when playing this game, as the person who most recently drank tea goes first. It will always be me.
There are three steps on each players turn:
You start by playing a card from your hand. You follow it’s direction and then it goes in the discard pile. You do not draw a card after you have played a card, unless specifically instructed to do so. If you cannot play anything from your hand then you must draw from the deck until you find one you can play. For example, if the teacup on your card has already been stacked then you cannot play that card
Most cards generate the second step and require you to stack a specified teacup, some cards give you more choice in which cup you stack. The stacking rules are laid out clearly in the beautifully illustrated instruction booklet. The rest of the cards have special instructions that enable you to discard a cup or a card, or draw a different card.
The final step is the most important. After you have placed a cup you must count to three out loud. Very loud according to my five year old, loud enough to cause T-rex size vibrations. It is not enough to balance the cups for a mere moment, it must stand up to the test of time, well the test of three seconds anyway.
If any of the teacups fall during your turn – including while you are counting to three – then you are penalized and must drink coffee instead of tea for three days. That might just be a house rule, you must actually draw three cards and put any fallen teacups back with the cups waiting to be stacked. Cups that stay on the table, stay on the table.
How Do You Win Mad Tea Party ?
The game essentially has two goals and you can win by achieving either. If you are the first to play all your cards – and nothing falls over – then you win. If there are still cards in hands, then the person who stacks the last teacup – and nothing falls over – will win.
The March Hare – Let’s Change the Subject
You may stack any teacup of your choosing, and if you can make it past the count of three, then the order of play reverses. In a two-player game, this means you immediately take another turn.
The Mad Hatter – Have a Cup of Tea!
Much like his long eared counterpart, with the Mad Hatter you may choose which teacup you stack. This time, if you successfully get past three, then the next player must draw a card into their hand before taking their turn. If you have the same musical influences as I, you will be singing The Kinks for days afterwards.
Alice – Curiouser and Curiouser
This is the granddaddy of special cards. Play this card, and you can stack any cup you choose, then if nothing falls, you get to discard from your hand. This can be the winning play if you only have one more card in your hand after playing Alice.
The Cheshire Cat – I’m Not All There Myself
Instead of stacking a teacup, which is the normal play for this game, you do something abnormal, draw a card and end your turn. Playing the Cheshire Cat cannot win the game for you as the last card played, as it involves the immediate possession of another card.
Alice and The Mad Hatter – Clean Up! Move Down!
If there’s space you get to start a new stack on the table using any teacup. This card cannot be played as a wild card on a bare table.
The White Rabbit – I’m late! I’m late!
No stacks for you. The White Rabbit gets to remove the top cup from any stack. But the rule of three still applies. If you can’t get to three without collapse after removing a cup, the same rules apply. This card cannot be played as a discard play if there are no cups on the table.
No matter which special card you play, how many cups are on the table, or how many cards are left, if a teacup, any teacup(s) fall before you finish counting to three, you ignore any further instructions on the card, draw three more cards into your hand, and take another turn. Extra cards, but also an extra turn, welcome to the mad world of wonderland.
The special cards are great, and add a certain finesse to a simple game. The dynamic of each card, the specificity that you cannot win by playing the Cheshire Cat, all lead me to believe that someone with a deep love of card based games had a hand in designing this one. Each card plays well, and adds depth to the game.
GeekMom House Rules
In our house rules version of the game, we let our five year old play without the cards, we just take it in turns stacking and see who knocks them over first. She also likes to play with extra rules added in, cups can only be stacked within their own color, or cups can only be stacked from small to large, and so forth. It’s a nice way of teaching a basic lesson in sequences, and let’s the littlest gamer in our house have some say over the way we play. She enjoys each version of the game.
Should You Buy Mad Tea Party ?
If you have a little kid that loves to play with the family, but has little patience, then this is the game for you. It’s also a great game for kids to teach the grandparents or babysitter. Funnily enough, it’s not on Funko’s list of Babysitter approved games this year, but it should be. The rules are easy, and easy to learn/adapt for Grandparent and babysitter alike. This could easily be a go to gift for birthdays or Christmas. It would be a great game for the board game shelf in any Kindergarten class.
GeekMom received a copy of this game for review purposes.