Review: Operation Cuckoo (Jolly Dutch) – English

Are you completely cuckoo? Is rethinking second nature to you? Or do you also remove eggs from nests so you can put your own there? Then nest yourself in in the roost of the abstract strategy game Operation Cuckoo. Try to take over your opponent’s nest and get rid of your playing pieces first, without going crazy in Operation Cuckoo. Operation successful?

Background and game design

When people say you are cuckoo, it is not necessarily a compliment. In fact, what they mean by that is that you are not quite a hundred: in fact, you are crackpot, deranged or confused. This expression owes its name to the cuckoo and its peculiar behavior. The cuckoo itself owes its name to the sound it makes, but its peculiar behavior has to do with its reproduction. This is because the cuckoo is a so-called brood parasite. The cuckoo lays eggs in the nests of so-called host birds such as the lesser warbler. These host birds hatch the eggs of the cuckoo neatly and take care of these birds, without realizing that their unconscious adopted children bear very little resemblance to themselves. The cuckoo? Who can nicely focus on hobbies like expelling eggs and playing strategic board games. This actually doesn’t sound so cuckoo at all, come to think of it.

In Operation Cuckoo, players are going to mimic the behavior of the cuckoo. Players try to get rid of their own eggs and infiltrate their opponent’s nest. Operation Cuckoo is an abstract strategy game for two wacky players. In fact, Operation Cuckoo is a kind of game of inverted checkers with unique playing pieces resulting in a fast and aggressive game. At the beginning of the game, players set up the double-sided game board (the board includes a regular variant and an advanced variant) and place the game pieces in the designated spots. Each player has a pile of eggs, two loyal warblers and a cuckoo.

Goal and gameplay

Players win this operation by achieving one of the following conditions: 1. all of their pieces except their cuckoo are captured by the other player, 2. they manage to capture the other player’s cuckoo, 3. their cuckoo reaches a nest of the other player or 4. a game piece of the other player, except the cuckoo, reaches one the player’s nest.

In turn, players move their game pieces. Eggs may move 1 square and cuckoos and warblers may move 1 or 2 squares. Unless players can reach and thus capture another player’s game piece, they may only move forward. If a player can capture another player’s piece, that player is obligated to capture such a piece.

Travel edition

Jolly Dutch is a relatively young publisher in the Dutch landscape that has already marketed a lot of games by Dutch and Flemish game authors, in part because of their Jolly Dutch games subscription. They have gained quite a bit of experience in a short time, but part of gaining experience is of course learning from your “mistakes. During the production of Operation Cuckoo, the game pieces fell a lot smaller than intended. Jolly Dutch could have released the game with these pieces a less enjoyable gaming experience or discarded these game pieces. Just like in the game, the publisher went into rethinking. The small pieces were replaced with larger pieces and with the remaining small pieces, Jolly Dutch released a travel edition of Operation Cuckoo.

The travel edition does not include a double-sided game board, but it does have a very manageable box, making it an ideal travel game for the lover of abstract games. The eggs there are small and if like me you are a caveman with sturdy and clumsy hands, that may not be ideal, but then you just have to play just a little more carefully on vacation.


Losing playing pieces is a positive thing in Operation Cuckoo and so players are the first to try to get rid of the playing pieces. Because of this, most players will tend to play fast and aggressively to get rid of their pieces at all costs. You try to place your playing pieces so that the other player has to capture your pieces, without giving the other player’s cuckoo little resistance as a result. At the same time, you try to move your cuckoo to another player’s nest, but then you run the risk of the other player trying to trap the cuckoo. So on the one hand you want to get rid of your pieces, but possibly by doing so you give your opponent free rein.

You set up the game easily and the playing pieces are nice and of good quality. Don’t let an egg fall out of your hands, however, because its shape causes it to roll away quickly: the egg knows what to expect… Fortunately, the shell of these eggs is not as brittle as a real egg. With the advanced variant, there are different starting positions, making the interaction between players even more dynamic. Operation Cuckoo is an easy-to-learn game where you can enjoy birding and luring each other out of the nest.