PN Product Review: Coaster Games

[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]

Games come in all shapes and sizes these days. Some are so elaborate that they practically come with their own wheeled suitcases to transport everything, while others happily fit in an Altoid tin.

But even with today’s market for micro-games, it’s rare that six different activities can all fit in your pocket at once.

Still, the game designers at The Dark Imp have managed to do precisely that with the subject of today’s review. Please join us as we explore Coaster Games, a six-pack of games each designed to fit on a drink coaster.

Coaster Games is designed to be played with nothing more than the coasters themselves, something to write with, and something to write on. Some games are for two players, while others are for 2 or more. And each one offers a totally different sort of gameplay.

Alien Farm is a hand-drawn version of Sushi Go, where you place different aliens in different spots on your farm, hoping to maximize your score at the end of the game.

Letter Market is a curious mix of Boggle and Scrabble. You have 25 points to spend on letters, and the letters have different values. You’re trying to write down as many valid words as possible, using the letters you’ve purchased.

Ice Cream Truck is a wagering game where you try to make the most successful ice cream truck business on a budget. Each round, you wager some of your money on either ice cream or investments and see how the weather affects your business.

Free the Frog is like a mixing pot of Hangman, Charades, and 20 Questions. One player is the frog, and chooses a word to break the spell. All the other players are trying to guess that word using the questions available on the coaster.

Treasure Split is essentially the Prisoner’s Dilemma made into a game. You and your fellow player walk along a path, picking up treasure. But you have to secretly decide whether you’re splitting the loot or stealing it. Each has its benefits, but the path is different depending on the choices both players have made.

Sleuth Box is like Battleship, but there’s only one spot your opponent is hiding. But you’re hiding somewhere too, and each of you has to sleuth out the other’s location.

Each game has its pluses and minuses, but even if one isn’t your cup of tea, you’re bound to enjoy some of the other offerings. Free the Frog was an instant hit, and we were able to vary the game’s difficulty through our choices of vocabulary.

Similarly, Sleuth Box inspired lots of replays. We would quickly start to develop techniques to find our foes, which our opponents started to counter the more we played. Instead of replays detracting from the fun, it allowed for some very cool, intense showdowns of cleverness and guile across a half-dozen sessions in a row.

Each game only lasts a matter of minutes (no more than 10 or 12 for the most involved ones), so new players are invited to sample all sorts of play styles, whereas people more familiar with each game monopolize their favorites for a few rounds before passing them along and picking up another one. This collection is a great way to keep a group occupied without making anyone wait too long for their turn, which can be a serious concern when you’re gaming with a big group or at a family gathering.

All in all, I was pretty impressed with Coaster Games. The gameplay for each was easy to pick up with a single playthrough, and none of the games invited burnout even after multiple quick replays. If you need a great stocking stuffer or travel game, look no further.

[Coaster Games is available from The Dark Imp for just £6.99.]


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