Review: Up for Grabs
Publisher: Mattel
Year: 1978
Tagline: The frantic family game of frenzied fingers!

Cover shows family of 3 leaning over the game piece

how we met

I found Up For Grabs at one of those thrift shops that have a 50% off sale going on all the time. The tight shot on the family fun from the cover had me wanting to participate in whatever it was they were doing. I don’t remember clearly what Bill’s reaction was, but I feel like I can hear him tsk-tsk’ing when I look at it. Sold.

how it plays

Up For Grabs is a fast-paced dexterity game for 2 to 4 players, with 4 players recommended. I will not explain the variants for less than 4 players, but they do exist if you need them.

Each player is a different color (white, yellow, red or green) and has six two-colored little pegs – they resemble pills from Dr. Mario or perhaps cartoonish shotgun shells. Your six pegs will all have your color on one half and then 2 each of the other colors.

The pegs are two colors, like yellow/white, green/red, green/white, etc
Dr. Mario flashbacks amiright?
Yellow pegs
So like if I’m yellow this is the combination of pegs I need

Players place their pegs into the game device with their color side up, placing a single piece into each separate section. Once all pieces are in place, you should have four different colors in each section.

Players should decide how many rounds they want to play, so that each player gets an equal turn.

Next the first player winds the game device button until it stops, then presses it down. This will cause the pegs to move up and down in seemingly random order. Your job is to grab any pegs of your color that pop up and turn them over, therefore showing a color other than your own. The timer gives you just about six seconds for this job, so be vigilant!

A hand reaching for a peg mid-play
An action shot from our play

If any of your color pegs are sticking up after the timer has run out for your turn, you can turn one of them over. This happens quite frequently and is worth mentioning.

When you are done, pass the game device to the next player who will also take a turn at getting rid of their color pegs.

Play continues in this way until your agreed-upon rounds are up. Then the player with the least amount of pegs of their color showing is the winner!

how it went

Up For Grabs manages to be as simple as it looks, but much more entertaining than expected (at least by me). We played one evening while we waited for food to arrive, which I guess is the definition of a “filler game.”

We took on the suggested variant of allowing only one hand. It seemed more challenging, and I knew if we decided to try and all play at the same time – a possible variant – that would be necessary.

One of the less-than-great things about Up For Grabs is the whining of the game device. It is loud and irritating. But it also works, perfectly, after 40 years. So it seems like a silly thing to complain about.

Because I care about you, SO MUCH, I took a quick sloppy video. Turn that volume all the way up!

We played the game for awhile just getting used to it. We went round and round, perfectly content in our endless circle. Finally we stopped that madness, reset the pieces and decided on a 3-round game.

By this point we were trying to track things like, is it an advantage to go first? To go last?

We play dexterity games every so often. We like some of them, too! We have played Topple numerous times (I should probably review it since I see it at thrift all the time). But we don’t like all of them. I don’t think we have a weakness or preference for dexterity games.

But Up For Grabs is not your typical dexterity game, either. It combines luck with dexterity, and the biggest factor is probably speed. If not for the vast amount of luck involved in terms of where players put pieces and which pieces are coming up, this borders on a skill game.

In playing through Up For Grabs we generally agreed that it is not better or worse to go first or last. It is a zero-sum game, so each advance you make is a detriment to your fellow players, and vice versa. The only thing that really, really hurts you is a bad turn. And those definitely happened. Some rounds had zero or one peg flipped, while other rounds boasted as many as five or six.

The insert is cute with the four different colors
The insert is super adorable. This picture also gives you a good view of the six separate “sections”

So it’s important to do well, but even then you are not in control of your own destiny. You can be in the lead going into the last round but the pegs of other players happened to come up during their turns and happened to have more of your color than someone else’s. You might experience a bloodbath and it’s not even your turn.

It is important to determine your rounds ahead of time, because the game does seem to forever tease you by moving you ahead and behind and all around the middle. You need that line in the sand to stop the madness.

We played 3 rounds, and Keri won Up For Grabs!

play or pass

Play. This is a fun, fast-paced dexterity game that will be even more enjoyed with younger players. Up For Grabs is short, loud and at times brutal. But we really enjoyed it.

I am not a fan of skill games masquerading as actual games. Up For Grabs is flirting with being a skill game. I think you need the combination of the luck introduced by the game device as well as multiple players to avoid this pitfall. No matter how skilled you are, in a four player game you will have highs and lows.