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Hi-Ho Cherry-O Game Rules and Strategies

The simplicity of the Hi-Ho Cherry-O rules makes this classic counting game an enjoyable way to teach young ones some basic math skills while also providing plenty of fun for the whole family.

Indeed, while it may be essentially a children’s game, it still offers lots to entertain grown-ups as you race to be the first player to get all your cherries off your tree and into your bucket.

Always wanted to play this well-established favorite at your next family game night but don’t know where to start? Here’s everything you need to know about how to play Hi-Ho Cherry-O.

What is Hi-Ho Cherry-O?

If you’re looking for a fun way to use board games as a means of helping your kids improve their counting skills but find that games like Monopoly are just a little too advanced for their age, Hi-Ho Cherry-O will no doubt prove to be a solid alternative.

First released in the 1960s, this popular board game can be suitable for two to four players and is just about as easy to play as any board game could ever get. 

Each player adds ten cherries to their own cherry tree then takes turns spinning a spinner to determine how many cherries they get to move from their tree into their bucket. The first player to completely rid their tree of cherries is declared the winner.

Here’s how it’s done.

What You’ll Need

While other classic board games such as Clue or Pictionary have seen countless different versions come and go over the years, the great thing about Hi-Ho Cherry-O is that it remains relatively unchanged since it was first released, meaning when you pick up the standard board game set, you’ll be playing pretty much the same version of the game that you yourself likely enjoyed as a child.

In that set, you’ll have:

  • 4 x cherry trees
  • 4 x buckets
  • 44 x cherries (40 for gameplay plus four spares)
  • 1 x spinner.

That’s really all you need to get started.

Hasbro Hi Ho! Cherry-O Board Game

Hi-Ho Cherry-O Rules and Gameplay

Setting Up

Another thing you’ll like about this game is that it takes barely a minute to set up. 

Each player takes the following pieces:

  • 1 x tree
  • 1 x bucket
  • 10 x cherries.

They then add each of those 10 cherries to their tree. 

Usually, in games like this, it’s the youngest player who goes first, but if you prefer, you can each spin the spinner, and whoever scores the highest number goes first. If you’re choosing that option, then count the dogs on the spinner board as 5 and the bird as 6.

With that done, it’s time to start your game. 

Paying Hi-Ho Cherry-O

Player 1 starts the game by spinning the spinner. Wherever the spinner lands, determine the action that player takes. This includes:

  • 1 Cherry – The player removes 1 cherry from their tree and places it in their bucket
  • 2 Cherries – The player removes 1 cherry from their tree and places it in their bucket
  • 3 Cherries – The player removes 1 cherry from their tree and places it in their bucket
  • 4 Cherries – The player removes 1 cherry from their tree and places it in their bucket
  • Bird or dog – The player takes 2 cherries from their bucket and places them back on the tree
  • Spilled bucket – This signals that the bucket got knocked over, meaning the player loses all their cherries and puts them back on the tree.

Landing on Bird or Dog 

If a player lands on the bird or dog, this usually means that they have to put 2 cherries back on their tree, but if they only currently have one cherry in their bucket they just need to put it back. 

If they don’t have any cherries, then they don’t need to do anything.

There’s no such thing as having a negative amount of cherries in this game, so if you don’t give up any cherries, you earn on your next go.

For example, if you don’t have any cherries and land on a bird, nothing happens. If you then land on 2 cherries on your next turn, you can still keep those two cherries. They’re not affected by your last turn.

How to Win at Hi-Ho Cherry-O

After the first player has taken their turn, play continues in a similar fashion, with each player spinning the spinner and adding or removing cherries from their bucket.

When a player has successfully taken all 10 cherries from their tree and put them in their bucket, they should call out “Hi-Ho! Cherry-O!” in much the same way that they’d make a similar call in games like Yahtzee or Uno.

If you prefer, games with multiple players can keep going to determine who comes 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, or simply end the game with the winner and start over.

How to Play Hi-Ho Cherry-O in Co-Operative Mode 

Earlier, we mentioned that Hi-Ho Cherry-O has barely changed since it was brought out in the 1960s. While that’s mostly true, there was one notable update that came along in 2007 and which is worth mentioning here.

That update was the introduction of a co-operative mode so that players can all work together on the same team. This might be a good idea if you love co-op games like Mysterium but find they’re just not suitable for your young ones.

In this version, there’s also a 9-piece puzzle of a bird, and players must work together to pick all of the cherries before the puzzle is completed.

Here’s how this works:

  • Set up by putting all 40 cherries on all 4 trees
  • Put the 9 bird puzzle pieces nearby, with enough space to make the puzzle.
  • Player 1 spins the spinner and removes the appropriate number of cherries according to where the spinner lands
  • If the spinner lands on the bird instead of a cherry, add one piece to the puzzle
  • If the spinner lands on the dog, remove one cherry
  • If the spinner lands on the spilled bucket, remove two cherries
  • All remaining players then take their turn in a similar fashion.

The goal is to get all 40 cherries off the trees and into the buckets before building the puzzle.

Simple, right?

A Final Tip for Making the Most Out of Hi-Ho Cherry-O

On the whole, there’s a lot to like about Hi-Ho Cherry-O. It’s so simple that even children as young as 3 years-old can easily get to grips with it. It’s a great way to help them develop basic counting skills and, of course, it only takes about a minute to set-up and start playing.

Yet while it may take no time at all to get your game underway, one criticism we’ve seen people levy at games like this is that they could, theoretically at least, go on until the end of time. 

Landing the spinner on the penalty spots (dog, bird, and spilled bucket) means putting cherries back on your tree and could mean the game goes on and on even if you were only one cherry away from winning.

With that in mind, you might want to introduce a time limit. You could, for example, say that the first person with ten cherries in their buckets wins, unless half an hour has passed, in which case the person with the most bucketed cherries is declared the winner. 

Ultimately, this might be the best way to save everyone’s sanity and stop children from getting bored and wandering off, ensuring that Hi-Ho Cherry-O remains the fun, entertaining family game it was designed to be. 

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