At Origins, I walked by a booth that had on display, for our amusement, a mullet-topped hilljack with a tobacco stain on his already pit-sweat stained wifebeater tank top. I had to stop and ask what the hell the dude was about. Turns out that no, he isn't a Kentucky resident, he was the spokesmodel for Gut Bustin' Games offerings, The Redneck Life, Trailer Park Wars, and O Gnome You Don't. After ten minutes of conversation involving the merits of Kentucky Pillow Talk ("Git off me Paw, yer crushin' mah smokes") and other aspects of country life, I was offered a copy The Redneck Life to review. Now, I had never heard of these folks, but now that I have, I'm going to keep an eye on them. This game had all of us involuntarily snort-laughing nearly the entire time.
I just played this game for the third time last night, and I have to tell you, that while it is a really, really dumb game when it comes to any meaningful, thoughtful mechanics, it's so damned funny to play that I have to admit that it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I cannot envision another game that has such anecdotal moments as that which I just played, such as when my wife was getting divorced, and when she was asked whether or not she wanted to fuck the lawyer for a $50 discount, she responded, "I ain't no ho, and I ain't sleepin' with no damned lawyer. I gots Elvis to think about!" Elvis was her youngin', just so you know, and it was a noble thing to do seeing as she had merely an 11th grade education and was trying to make ends meet by operating a Mullet salon. In the immortal words of the cousin in 'O brother, where art thou,' "There's a depression on, and I gots to do for mine."
The game had incredibly funny moments involving the fact that my second wife, who coincidentally was named the same as my actual wife's character in the game, had five kids named Darryl, who became stepbrothers for my other two kids, Thelma Louise and Jack Daniel, all of whom were taken by Child Protective Services near the end of the game. My wife was blessed with the adoption of two of her brother's kids, who were names Denise and Denephew, not to mention little Elvis.
At various points in the game, all four of us had houses in various states of disrepair, all vividly illustrated on the title deed cards, and were driving around in stretch limousines and upon the backs of donkeys named Quincy. I should also mention that by the end of the game, we'd lost a combined 24 teeth between us, accumulated over $3,000 in debt to the local paycheck advance guy, and to top it off, half of us had slept with the lawyer, who we decided was my wife as she was continually correcting our 4th grade math. Damned college folks. To add insult to injury, I chose to bone the socks off of the lawyer not only because of the discount, but because she got the judge to let me keep my trailer. You really can't buy that kind of representation, so I rented her.
Getting back to the details, though, the concept of Redneck Life is quite simple. Players roll and move along a very linear downward spiral toward the end, noted by the Day of Reckon'n, taking cards and enduring such inequities as taking days off of fishing to sire several illegitimate children, having the payday advance guy come and pop our teeth out when we couldn't pay up, and enduring names given our kids such as Cooter and Skeeter, all of whom drained our paychecks. Let's not forget about my buddy's one-night stand with his cousin which produced his new son, Gene.
Anyhow, each space on the board produced more and more absurd text and card draws which ended sadly in the above mentioned circumstances. At certain pause points during the game players will make rolls to determine things such as getting edjumucated up to a maximum of 12th grade, getting such illustrious careers as becoming a Swap Meet Merchant and Mullet Salon Operator, buying a trailer painted as an American flag or a trailer with a porta-john attached to the exterior, getting married to such lovely folks as Jebediah James and Bessie Sue, divorcing said folks and putting their home in peril, getting remarried and adopting up to six stepchildren named Darryl, and at the culmination of the game, spending money to pay off debts, and if any money remains, to buy back teeth, which in this game is the coin of the realm. The winner of the game is the player with the most teeth in their head, and in the case of a tie, the player with the most cash wins.
When you open the sturdy, imaginitively illustrated box, you'll find a pad of scoresheets with which to record the trials and tribulations of your redneck avatar, a bunch of pawns, a red and blue die, a crapload of funny money with such titles as "Mullet Moola", "White Trash Cash" and others, a stack of photo-realistic homes and vehicles, a huge supply of red debt bills, and a huge stack of "Gone Redneck'n" cards which provide most of the narrative of the game. There's also a primative but surprisingly well-made game board, and several reference charts to use at each stop along the Redneck Trail of Tears, which is what we came to call the track on the board. The final bit is one standard letter sized rule sheet, which is truly all you'll need to play this very, very simple game. All in all, the components are exactly what I'd expect from a novelty game, and were fully adequate.
To set the game up, you simply get the money laid out with the banker, put the appropriate cards on their spaces on the board, and put all of the vehicles into the "Uncle Clem's Rig Rodeo", which is a plastic sleeve used to display the sad excuses for vehicles that inhabit the game. Pick a pawn, get a scoresheet, and then you're ready to go. Each player, in turn, will roll the blue and red dice to name their hillbilly, using a chart to come up with names such as Billy Bob, Earl Ray, and Wynona Fae.
Gameplay consists of rolling the dice, adding the values, and moving your pawn that many spaces on the track. Some spaces have text that causes events to occur, which vary from group events such as the Redneck Olympics to individual ones that can cause you to take on new kids, referred to as youngin's, or lose teeth. Other spaces, which are the most common, cause you to take and resolve a Gone Redneck'n card, and these vary from winning a chaw spitting contest and winning money to getting into a bar fight and losing several teeth. Some cards are Redneck Revenge cards which contribute a screwage factor in the game, allowing you to hose over an opponent, take their stuff, or foist your leeching kids off onto them.
I really want to emphasize how funny some of the cards and events are. One of them tells you that you've earned some cash by selling the story of your daughter, who was born with sideburns and a mullet, to the Globe Magazine. Another card has the drawing player judge a real live hog calling contest, where three of us called, "Sooooooooey!" loudly and my wife ended up winning on originality by calling, "Here, piggy, piggy, piggy!" There's a huge variety of hilarious cards, and I don't imagine we've gotten through them all in three plays.
Several times during the trip through the Redneck Life you'll come across stopping points that cause you to resolve events, as I mentioned before, starting with determining your level of education, your job in life, what kind of hovel you get to inhabit, and finally, who your first and second wives are. There's also payday spots which allow you to get paid whatever your career choice allows, less ten dollars per kid you have on staff. Note that in the last game, I had nine, two of which were actually produced via incestuous activity.
Your chittlins, as you can imagine, play a huge role in the game as you not only have to pay for them each paycheck, you also have to transport them. Each vehicle in the game has a youngin' capacity, and at all times you must maintain a total capacity that exceeds the amount of kids you have in your corral. At several points during several games I noted, "Damn, I need to gets me another rig, cuz I need to drive a damned mob around town." It is likely that you will have a veritable used car lot in front of you, as I have had more then four rigs at any given point during several games to support my large and empoverished stable. If, at any point, your legion of ill-conceived children exceed your transport ability, any player can call you on a violation at which point you must immediately buy a new car capable of transporting them, and then pay them $100. I have to say that you will NOT have that hundred bucks, and will invariably go deeper into debt with Uncle Clem and his shady loansharking operation.
Some of the other spaces cause you to roll on charts to determine what a bad batch of moonshine has done to you, while another allows you to get a hundred bucks and gamble it in a winner-takes-all, luck pushing dicefest. There's even spaces that allow you to determine what your cigarette habit has done to you, from being able to sue for millions yet only keep two hundred due to the damned lawyers, all the way to getting very sick and having to pay a bunch of money you don't have. I should also mention that at one point in the game, and only one point, you may purchase health, car, and home insurance for a hundred bucks each. These are invaluable resources as rednecks appear to be the unluckiest folks in the world.
At the end of the game you'll reach the "Day of Reckon'n" space and you sell off your house and cars for half price, assuming they weren't "blowed up real good", lost in a lake, or otherwise destroyed, and then with all the cash in hand, you have to pay back any debt to Uncle Clem. In the unlikely event that you have any cash left over, you can spend a hundred dollars a tooth for dentistry work, which are the victory points in this backwoods adventure. You record the amount of remaining teeth, your extra cash, and then sit back and heckle the other players. As noted, the winner is the player at the end of the game that has the most teeth, and in three games, only one time did any player actually have all 28 of their "moufers" in their gums.
I would be remiss in my duties were I not to mention that with four players, the game time can run two hours or more. Part of this is due to the conversation, which is a good thing, but the main issue with the time is that the roll and move mechanic can cause you to lose interest. The rules have a game variant that allows you to roll a third die, if you provide one, to speed up the travel along the grim path, and I highly encourage this practice. It drops the game time to just over an hour and thirty minutes, which is the sweet spot, in my opinion. Too much longer, and you just get sick of the tedium that the roll and move mechanic is prone to producing.
To summarize, this is clearly a novelty game. This is not a game that you're going to talk about because of the epic comeback victory over Sauron, and it's not a game where you'll lament rolling all skulls when you needed all shields. That being said, I am very glad to have played it repeatedly. The conversations that have spawned are something we've been talking about for the last 2 weeks, and we're still laughing about how Jebediah Joe was shipped off to military school, which was the edge needed to buy back a couple of teeth and win the game.
We're still calling each other Billy Bob, making jokes about how we "can use us some biscuits and mustard, ummm hmmm" and still thinking about what total shithole houses we ended up drawing. All in all, it's a very funny game, and without the humor would be incredibly dull, but the humor made it fun. In a lot of ways, this game is the same as Munchkin; you can play it a few times, but when the jokes wear thin, that's when the game gets shelved, only to be played when your relatives from out of town come over and you need to kill some time after, well, some biscuits and mustard.
Why Living The Redneck Life Will Give You The Vapors:
- This is a ridiculously silly, fun time, provided you have funny friends
- The photographs of the houses and cars are priceless, and other art is pretty decent too
- There is some serious screwage in the game via the Redneck Revenge cards
- Turn length is very short, so there's minimal downtime
- If prominently displayed, this will certainly be a conversation piece
What Makes This A Southern Fried Nightmare:
- This game has precious few meaningful decisions outside of playing Redneck Revenge cards
- When the funny wears off, this will become a once-a-year event
- The math in the game can cause confusion if you're actually playing out your real life's story
- The game is just too long to keep your interest if you play with two dice
The game is as simple a roll and move game as you're ever going to find, but the merits of the game have far less to do with the gameplay's interesting decisions, razor-sharp mechanics, or exquisitely sculpted miniatures. None of those things will make an appearance in this game. The fact is that while the game tends to lag on for about 45 minutes too long, the theme and conversations that erupt from the game make it a worthwhile party game that, while a hair on the expensive side for what you get, is as entertaining as many other, far more cleverly designed games. The downfall is that once you've played three or four times, the jokes will have all been heard, and it will be a lot less fun.
You can learn more about The Game Of Redneck Life and its expansion at their website, which also has information on their other games:
If, in the interest of wanting to play this game a couple of times without dropping thirty bucks at Wal-Mart, you can rent it at The Board Game Exchange!