22 June 2019

PinkFae Archive #38: Board Game Review: Steve Jackson Games Triple Threat

This week's entry is another board game review from the PinkFae archives. It is also an entry in the series of articles on Gen Con 2016. It was originally published on 22 October 2016.

A banner made up of three images fading into one another: on the left, a photo of the board from Bill and Ted's Excellent Board Game (cartoon-style temporal pathways in the style of the original movie) with cardboard pieces representing the players in phone booths and characters from history). In the middle is the cover for I Hate Zombies (a cartoon style man, grimacing in anger and covered in bandages, with a horde of zombies behind him). On the right is the box for the Simon's Cat Card Game next to several of the cards from the game, all decorated with the character from the titular comic.

For my last entry about Gen Con, I'm going to do three board game reviews in one article. Why? Partly because the games are all short and simple. Partly because they're all from Steve Jackson Games. Partly because it's time to finish up the Gen Con posts and get on to something else! So we're going to look at the three games they demoed at their 'Play New Releases' table: Simon's Cat Card Game, I Hate Zombies, and Bill & Ted's Excellent Board Game.

Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, and makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take. Gamer Profile Ratings measures how strongly a game will appeal to players based on their interest in one of four areas. These areas are measured as High, Medium, or Low. Strategy describes how much a game involves cognitive challenges, thinking and planning, and making sound decisions. Conflict describes how much direct hostile action there is between players, from destroying units to stealing resources. Social Manipulation describes how much bluffing, deceiving, and persuading there is between players. Fantasy describes how much a game immerses players in another world, another time.

The Ratings

Here are the ratings for all three games.

I Hate Zombies Simon's Cat Bill & Ted's Excellent Board Game
Strategy 2 2 2
Randomness 3 4 4
Complexity 1 1 2
Humour Implicit Derivative / Implicit Derivative / Implicit
Attractiveness Pretty Pretty Nice
Average Length of Game Play  20 minutes  30 minutes  30 minutes
Gamer Profile Ratings:
Strategy Low Low Low
Conflict Medium Low Low
Social Manipulation Low Low Low
Fantasy Medium Low Medium

I Hate Zombies

A photo of two of the cards from the I Hate Zombies game, with the front (human) side on the left and the back (zombie) side on the right. Each card has an illustration of the character (in this case, a sniper and a biker) with text describing that character's power. The back shows a zombified version of the character. All zombies have the same power.

We'll start with the one that wasn't technically a new release. Steve Jackson Games actually released this one last year. Still pretty new though...

To play, deal out one card to each player. Each card has a front side, which displays a human character, and a back side, which displays the zombified version of that character. Each human has a different power. All zombies have the same text, describing how the zombies work. Every other player turns his card to the zombie side, so that the circle consists of equal numbers of humans and zombies, with a human on either side of every zombie and vice versa.

On a player's turn, he or she chooses to attack the opponent closest to him either on the right or the left. At the beginning, that means the player sitting next to him. But as humans are zombified and zombies killed, there may be several people on the same team between him and the next player on the opposite team. Just ignore the players on the same team when choosing whom to attack.

The two players (attacker and defender) play Rock Paper Scissors. The loser takes a wound. Nothing happens in the event of a tie. Humans may have a power that allows them to do something unusual, such as making a different zombie take the wound, or healing another human in the event of a tie.

If a human takes two wounds, he becomes a zombie. If a zombie takes three wounds, he is killed and is out of the game. Once there are only humans remaining, the human team is declared the winner, or if there are only zombies remaining, the zombies are declared the winner.

Simon's Cat Card Game

A photo of the hands of three people playing Simon's Cat. The cards in their hands, and on the table, are coloured according to the animal on the card (a cat, a mouse, a kitten, and so forth). Each card is numbered.

Next is the big release that was heavily promoted this year. Steve Jackson Games secured a license to make a card game based on Simon's Cat, a series of humorous videos following the adventures of Simon, his cat, and several other companions. Each of the six companions (the titular cat, a kitten, a mouse, a dog, a hedgehog, and a garden gnome) has its own colour (pink, blue, orange, purple, yellow, and green, respectively). Each character's cards are numbered. However, there aren't the same number of cards in each colour/character. Not all of the colours are fully sequential, either. Some start at 3, others skip numbers.

These cards are dealt evenly to all players. Then you play Uno. Seriously, it's basically the same game but with two more colours and uneven number distribution. When one player plays a card, the next player must either match the colour or the number of that card. If you can't play, you collect that stack of cards and play a new card to start the next round.

Once all players are out of cards, the player with the most stacks of cards gets blamed for the mess. He takes a card with an illustration of Simon to represent the blame. The first player to get three blame cards is the loser.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Board Game

A photo of the game board with pieces on it mid-play. The board is a five-by-five grid on a background of cartoon-style artwork of the temporal pipelines from the Bill & Ted Movies. Tokens representing the historical characters are stacked around the board. The player's pieces are cardboard tiles of phone booths with an arrow to indicate facing, standing in a plastic base. An employee of Steve Jackson Games can be seen standing next to the table on which the game and the box are arranged.

Steve Jackson Games also managed to get a license to make a game from the Bill & Ted franchise. Players move around the board collecting some of the historical figures that featured in the first film. Each player chooses two cards from his hand and plays them simultaneously. These cards feature numbers that determine turn order, as well as movement directions (forward, reverse, turn left, turn right, turn around). Players move their phone booth markers according to the cards they've played. If they land on a token for a historical character that they don't already have, they pick that character up.

Two bad things happen: first, every character token you pick up has directions on the back. You will apply these, in order, before the cards that you played. Thus, the more historical characters you have, the more unchangeable random movement your piece will experience. This is bad because:

Secondly, after your movement ends, you must apply the movement cards that you have played either to the Sheriff or the Knight (the cards you play tell you to which one it applies). If ever your piece is in the same space as either the Sheriff or the Knight, you lose one of your historical characters. Just drop it in that space.

Once the deck is empty, the player with the most historical characters is the winner.

Final Thoughts on Steve Jackson Games' Offerings

I wasn't super impressed with any of these games. None of them require a whole lot of thought. Especially I Hate Zombies; the person demoing the game said that she had never seen the humans win a game. Unless you're just a fan of the comedic zombie genre, I can't imagine anyone wanting to play such a one-sided game.

Simon's Cat seemed too much like a re-work of Uno. Not much appeal there. Maybe a good game to play with little kids, but I personally don't see much draw in this one.

And I really wanted to like Bill & Ted. I was a fan of the film, after all. But the lack of control over your movements that comes with each character you pick up spoils what would otherwise be a good programming game along the lines of RoboRally.

As always, that's just my opinion. Please read what I've written and give the games a try for yourself if they sound appealing to you. But for now, we are done with the Gen Con posts. Next week, I hope to have a little surprise for you! Until then, remember to

Game on!

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