Review: Polar Dare!
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Year: 1991
Tagline: The Game of Chills, Thrills and Spills

Cover shows a scary cartoon polar bear threatening a penguin

how we met

I found Polar Dare! at a thrift shop last summer, shortly after our group played Dizzy Dizzy Dinosaur. I picked it up because it looked old, and once I picked it up I could see that it was a vintage, long-box Milton Bradley game. The gameplay looked identical to Dizzy Dizzy Dinosaur to me. I was in a place where I felt overwhelmed with outstanding reviews, overwhelmed with my number of games, and I was super picky about buying anything. So I put it back on the shelf.

I must have been feeling foggy, and thank goodness I had backup. Bill grabbed Polar Dare! with a glance that mildly admonished me for putting it back on the shelf. And far be it from me to ever argue about picking up a vintage, long-box Milton Bradley game. And that’s how we met!

how it plays

Each player starts the game with 3 penguins, and your goal is to get all of your penguins safely to the North Pole. But watch out for that pesky Polar Bear!

On your turn, roll the die. If you roll a penguin with a number, you must make that total number of moves. Similarly if you roll a Polar Bear, you must use all 3 moves.

The die has either a penguin or polar bear next to a number and my photo has poor lighting
The die, at sunset.

A move consists of any of the following:

  1. Move an object (either one of your penguins or the Polar Bear, whatever you rolled) to an adjacent ice floe.
  2. Slide one ice floe forward or backward once. This is needed if no ice floe is adjacent to the penguin you want to move. It can also be used to help or hinder gameplay for you or your fellow players.

The only real difference in movement with Polar Bear is that you can’t move an ice floe with penguins on it. You can do this if you rolled a penguin.

An overhead shot at all ice floes at start and then a few ice floes moved
All ice floes start pushed toward Start, as in left photo. Right photo shows a few ice floes moved toward North Pole. They only move up and down, not left and right.

The goal when you roll the Polar Bear is to move him away from you or clear the path you need, or maybe move him toward the penguins controlled by your terrible friends. When the Polar Bear lands on an ice floe with one or more penguins, all of those penguins are sent back to start! OH NO!

The polar bear has his hands in the air very menacing
Our (almost titular) hero the Polar Bear

The first player to successfully land all three of their penguins on the shore of the North Pole wins!

how it went

I often gush over game covers, but only the really captivating ones. I don’t spend enough time gushing over game names I really like. I appreciate the name Polar Dare! very much. I think it is simple in a way that captures the theme as well as the spirit of the gameplay itself.

I think one of the reasons I was initially hesitant to pick up Polar Dare! was because we had just played Dizzy Dizzy Dinosaur, and the gameplay sounded so very similar. And it is, really. I think I prefer Polar Dare! for a couple of reasons. I enjoy the moving ice floes to help or hinder player movement. And I certainly was better off not stacking my pawns to make a giant target. And while I love a novelty, like a wind up dinosaur, Polar Dare! just felt like a better game.

Our play featuring wine glass in the background
Ask not for whom the Polar Bear comes

Like other games in this get-from-point-A-to-point-B-and-watch-out-for-danger vein, you can choose to move your penguins en masse or get one to the end before risking another one. For Polar Dare! I like the idea of moving them closer together. The Polar Bear just feels like a more predictable opponent. But that’s probably just my gut steering me wrong. I certainly did not win, and the Polar Bear can come up at any point in the die rolling.

I remember John had an interesting approach where he was keeping his penguins mostly on the starting shore for the beginning chunk of the game. I can see how that might be fun in a diabolical way; he is able to move the floes when he rolls in order to disrupt the rest of us, to say nothing of controlling the Polar Bear when that happens. In this game, it didn’t pay off. He didn’t win either.

John's black penguins in foreground at Start with all others in play distantly
I mean, it’s a strategy. Red does not look so hot in this photo either. That was probably me.

Bill approached gameplay as he does with nearly all games: with a ruthless, straight-forward approach that he thinks will help him win as quickly as possible. But he doesn’t always win, and in this case he did not win.

Keri was the winner of Polar Dare! She was not always pleased with how her game was going, though. My notes indicate that at one point she exclaimed, “Well hot dog, I got a 1!” So I was surprised to come back and read the instructions and remember that there are no 1’s on the die. I bet it was a very funny joke, dripping with sarcasm, and that’s why I wrote it down. So I guess you’ll have to trust me on that.

play or pass

Pass, like the similar games we have reviewed. Polar Dare! is probably my favorite of the race-to-the-end games we have played so far, but it’s middle-of-the-road for me.

If you find Polar Dare! at thrift, it’s a great find and you can definitely resell it for a couple bucks. Make sure it has all the ice floes, the penguins, and the polar bear. The die is unique too. The plastic pieces that the floes float on are important too, but we were just missing one so we could still move the ice floe around accurately. I bet they’d be very simple to 3d print if needed.