PuzzleNation Product Review: Get the MacGuffin

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

There are all sorts of different card games out there. Some require you to empty your hand of cards before your opponents can. Some are about accumulating the right cards to accomplish certain tasks, reach certain totals, or match certain patterns and images.

Today’s card game is a little different, because it’s not about emptying your hand, accomplishing goals, or matching images… it’s all about outlasting your opponents.

In today’s product review, we explore the latest offering from the crew at Looney Labs: Get the MacGuffin.

At first glance, this might simply seem like a scaled-down version of Fluxx. You have action cards (which affect how you and other players play the game) and object cards (which are placed down in front of you, like the Keepers and Creepers in Fluxx).

As you might expect from the name of the game, getting the MacGuffin is a worthwhile accomplishment, but it’s not the true endgame here. It’s just one very attractive way to reach the endgame.

Between the action cards and object cards, you’re simply trying to keep cards in your hand or in play in front of you while your opponents whittle down their own meager stashes of cards. If you run of cards, you’re out of the game.

And this happens faster than you’d think. With only 23 cards in the deck — 7 object cards and 16 action cards — you could run out of cards in only a few turns. You see, each player starts with the same number of cards. But there’s a big difference between the minimum number of players (two, which means you each get 5 cards, leaving 13 cards out of play) and the maximum number of players (eleven, which means you each get 2 cards, leaving 1 card out of play).

The cards vary wildly in value. Some are very silly; play The Shrugmaster, for instance, and you simply shrug, using up a turn. Otherwise, you don’t affect the game or the other players in any way.

Compare this to a valuable card, like The MacGuffin, which can be picked up and played again over and over. As long as you have that card in play in front of you, you will always have another turn. In a game where every turn can cost you cards, The MacGuffin is a powerful card to wield.

Players familiar with Fluxx will find some of the actions and object card powers familiar, as they allow you to randomly remove cards from other players’ hands, swap cards (or hands) with other players, and even block other cards from being used.

The balance of cards and actions is impeccable. While some cards are very influential, there is always another card in the deck that can remove it, shift it, or neutralize it. (For every MacGuffin, there is not only a Backup MacGuffin, but also a Fist of Doom.)

This adds tons of replay value to a card game that at first blush might seem limited. But the level of card interaction — like the Rock, Paper, and Scissors cards pictured above — make each game an unexpected treat.

Plus it’s a hugely different game based on the number of players. With a big group, you need to be more aggressive, because you could run out of cards in a few minutes. With a smaller group — or just a pairing — you have to strategize more, protecting your valuable cards while trying to prevent your opponents from taking advantage early. Or, heaven forbid, getting the MacGuffin.

Not only that, but the art on each card is terrific. The random characters on the object cards in particular — everyone from The Merchant and The Spy to The Thief and The Assassin — hint at a larger narrative, a bigger storytelling world that the game seems to only scratch the surface of. They feel like the misfits from a particularly wacky Guy Ritchie heist movie, adding a fun element of whimsy to the often-dastardly proceedings.

Get the MacGuffin is a quick-play game that you’ll want to play over and over again.

[Get the MacGuffin is available from Looney Labs and other participating retailers, starting at just $10!]


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Slapzi

slapzi

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

One of my favorite games that we featured in our New York Toy Fair posts was the dice game Tenzi. The mix of strategy, luck, and quick reaction times made for a perfect storm of chaotic fun.

So, when I found out that the team behind Tenzi also had a card game, Slapzi, I figured it was worth a look.

slapzi1

Slapzi’s concept is simple. There are two kinds of cards: picture cards and clue cards.

You are dealt five picture cards, each one bearing a picture of an object on the front and a picture of a different object on the back. Your goal is get rid of the five cards in your hand.

Each turn, a clue card is flipped over, revealing a quality of certain objects (“Not sold in a hardware store”) or a quality of certain objects’ names (“Two of the same letter together”).

You need to quickly look at your picture cards and determine which one fits the clue card. The first player to slap a picture card down over the clue card successfully gets rid of that card.

slapzi3

The sheer variety of objects on the picture cards — ranging from “hammock” and “teddy bear” to “eagle” and “sandwich” — means that there are plenty of chances to match the clue cards as they come up, but only if your reflexes are fast enough.

The creators also included plenty of variant rules, including ones where you match two clue cards at the same time, ones where you avoid matching the clue cards, and even one where every clue card is in play at the same time, with all players racing to empty their hands first.

Naturally, we couldn’t resist putting a slightly puzzlier spin on the game by playing with only one side of each picture card available to players. This added a level of strategy to the game, since you had to decide which objects might prove most beneficial.

After all, if you don’t have a living creature in your hand, you could find yourself out of luck with many of the clue cards. This restrictive gameplay introduced a more tactical element than some of the other rule variants.

slapzi2

That being said, every version of the game that we tried was a lot of fun. The rush to slap cards down, the excitement as your hand dwindles, and even the occasional pause where someone tries to justify an odd choice (like “teddy bear” for “thinner than a pizza box” by arguing about teddies who have lost their stuffing) made for great moments and plenty of laughs.

If you’re looking for a quick-reaction card game for all ages with loads of variation for more strategic solvers, Slapzi is an excellent choice.

Slapzi is available on Amazon, at various online retailers like The Good Toy Group, and in stores now.


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Games you can play in a snap!

stopwatch

What’s a puzzler to do when you’re in the mood to play a game, but you don’t have oodles of time available?

You simply don’t have an opening in your schedule wide enough to accommodate a multi-hour bout of Monopoly or a world-endangering round of Pandemic, but you still want a satisfying bit of gaming. Or perhaps you’re traveling and you don’t have room for all the bits and bobs that come with Escape: The Curse of the Temple or the set-up of Burgle Bros.

Well, reach for a quick-play game instead.

I define a quick-play game as any game you can set up and play in 20 minutes or less. Quick-play games can be large or small, travel-friendly or less-than-travel-friendly, but they’re all wrapped up in a pretty tight time limit.

And so, today, I’ll run through some terrific quick-play games. Some are favorites of mine, and others are suggestions from members of the PuzzleNation readership.

Let’s get cracking!


tsuro

If you’re looking for a quick, relaxing game, Tsuro might be right up your alley. A tile-placement game where up to 8 players take control of flying dragons whose paths intersect, the goal is to stay on the board the longest.

Now, you do need a bit of space to play Tsuro, so it’s not really travel-friendly, but it’s easy to learn and a very satisfying way to pass 10 or 15 minutes.

bananagramswildtiles_thumb5b55d

For a more travel-amenable game that still requires a bit of space to play, you’ve got Bananagrams. The popular variation of Scrabble is perfect for airplane tray tables or intimate tables at the bar if you’re looking for a few speedy rounds of anagramming.

justdesserts loonacy

Loonacy and Just Desserts are two Looney Labs offerings that can easily slip into a backpack pocket and satisfy up to five players looking to kill 10 minutes or so.

Just Desserts is all about keeping hungry customers happy by matching symbols in your hand to treats they’d enjoy. It’s all about making the best use of the ingredients in your hand to serve treats to as many customers as possible. You’ll probably end up with a sugar craving after five or ten minutes of play.

Loonacy is a fast-reaction pattern-matching game that’s sure to get your adrenaline pumping, as you race to empty your hand of cards before your opponent can. Definitely a solid choice for spicing up a boring wait.

spaceteam

For five minutes of guaranteed puzzly chaos, there’s Spaceteam.

It’s up to you and your fellow players to work together to fix numerous malfunctions on your spaceship, and you have to share your tools to do so. But with everyone talking at once and all sorts of obstacles in your way, things get hectic very quickly. Of course, that only adds to the ridiculous fun of it all.

timeline-game

For a bit more of a thinker, give the Timeline series a shot. Combining short play times with serious replayability, Timeline is all about emptying your hand of cards by properly placing them in a timeline you and your fellow players build. Did the invention of the toothbrush come before or after the invention of the telegraph? You probably don’t know the exact dates, but having a general idea will get you pretty far.

The small metal tins make them easy to transport and stash away where needed. (I have one in my desk as I write this.)

loveletter

In terms of portability, you can’t get much smaller than Love Letter or one of its many variants. A card game all about deduction and luck, you’re trying to get your love letter into the princess’s hands before one of your rivals can. And with only 16 cards in the entire deck, every action is crucial.

falling-2014_nc3plq

For sheer speed, it’s hard to top Falling.

The entire game only takes about 90 seconds to play, and the idea is simple: every player is plummeting from the sky, and the last player to hit the ground wins. So as the dealer keeps going round and round, adding cards to your pile and coming ever close to dropping those final few GROUND cards, it’s up to you to delay the inevitable as long as possible.

Morbid? A bit. But fun? Oh yes. And the deck is only slightly thicker than your average deck of cards.

cards

Of course, for variety of gameplay, it’s hard to beat that average deck of cards. Games like Speed, Slapjack, and other fast-reaction games can be whipped up in a snap for those who don’t have the patience or the time for Hearts, War, or Go Fish.

But as you can see, there are plenty of other options out there for some quick, puzzly fun.

Are there any favorite quick-play games of yours that I missed? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!


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You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!