Saturday, August 20, 2011

Five Fingered Severance - You Too Can Augment Unemployment Benefits Through Thievery

I've always said that the mark of a great game is a novel, interesting theme that is completely integral with gameplay. This does not imply that the only great games are those where Space Marines or Valkyrie engage in mortal combat with deadly alien scum, it just means that a game that explores a compelling subject matter and allows you to engage in an activity you otherwise would not be able to in a fun and interesting way has a better shot than most of being a winner. Enter Five Fingered Severance, from Minion Games, a game that allows you to stick it to your corporate masters once and for all, and I'm here to tell you that the game has all the earmarks of greatness. In fact, it is one of the most enjoyable games I've played this year.

The game has players acting out their last day on the job at a convenience store, which would be totally boring if the object was to be the best, most faithful employee. Luckily, it's not. It's about stealing everything that's not nailed down, slacking off as much as possible without getting caught, and finally, about screwing over each and every last co-worker so that their similar efforts are stymied at every turn. This is a game of stealthily dodging the boss, stashing your stolen stuff in your locker, and above all else, making sure that your opponents are getting busted as often as you can manage to facilitate it. I can say, after four plays, that I absolutely love this game, and it will remain in my possession until the place burns down or I'm robbed. It's that fun.

Regarding the components, the only complaint that I have is that the box is utterly unappealing. It almost looks like it was designed by a high school student on an Apple 2E using a stock color scheme, and to add insult to injury, that color scheme is truly bland. If I saw it at a game store, I would likely not buy it just based on the box presentation itself, which would be a crying shame.

That being said, everything else is quite decent and very endearing in a cartoonish sort of way. Inside of the box is one pink and one blue D6 die, a medium sized game board, a pack of standard-sized cards which are used to plot against people, about a bazillion half-sized cards which act as activities to partake in as well as a game timer, a bunch of cardstock standies with bases, and three letter-sized cardstock sheets worth of tokens that represent various things, the most critical being things that you can steal.

Speaking of the tokens, there's a wide variety of items depicted, many are very funny, and the items make sense for the location they start in. For instance, the Brown Tooth Chewin' Tobacco is at the register, complete with a depiction of a nasty, brown, bloody tooth. The Hot Dog item at the fountain looks all shrivelled and nasty and has flies circling it. In the cooler is a "The Runs Brand Microwave Burrito". Can't forget the "Get Layed" brand Potato chips or the "Monkey Spank" brand ice cream. All in all, there's a ton of them, and while some are fairly pedestrian, the majority are funny in one way or another.

Finally, also the rulebook, which is quite easy to read not only because it's well written and well organized, but because it's quite funny. All the components are of really good quality, thick and durable cards, and the die cut cardstock bits punch easily and cleanly, leaving no hanging chads or ripped up edges. All in all, it's a very well made game that will last a good while.

Setup is very simple, but a hair on the time consuming side if you haven't bagged everything up. First, lay the board out and then shuffle and place all the half-sized cards, called "work markers" in the game, on their space on the board. Next, randomly select a character to play and take the player card as well as the standie, and then put the boss standie in the office location. Next, shuffle the large cards, called "plot cards", and give each player five of them. Next, stack each color-coded item token face-down and place the stacks in the color-coded circles on the board so that they can be pilfered later. Finally, draw six of the work marker cards and resolve them by either performing the action listed or placing them where they are supposed to be placed as indicated. Once all of that is done, you're ready to place your standies in the location of your choice.

Gameplay is very simple in theory, with each player, in turn, drawing and resolving a work marker and then taking two actions on their turn, in addition to playing any plots they desire to for free. The work markers are the narrative aspect of the game, and the work involved is only very rarely actual work, with a great many of cards representing various ways to slack off such as "nozzling" at the drinking fountain, playing video games, taking an unscheduled smoke break, engaging in a fire extinguisher fight, or the most disturbing, making out with an old lady who looks like a worn-out truck stop lot lizard. Many other cards represent customers entering the store, and these give you the option of insulting them which scores you points but cause you to take heat from the boss, or help them, which reduces the heat you're taking from the boss.

Some work markers are events, and these cause the boss to move, generally. The "bad nachos" card, for instance, has the boss sprint to the bathroom in order to transform into a soft-serve dispenser, where he'll stay for an entire round, groaning and evacuating his bowel. Others cause the boss to move to key locations, such as the office or the cash register, and these two locations generally end up having the choicest goods; the register has them because that's where the good stuff is, and the office has them because if someone's had a Jane's Addiction moment, the items get put in the office for safe keeping.

The entire game is made up of taking actions which include resolving work markers, as noted above, to reduce your heat with the boss, and these include mopping up the utterly vile looking bathroom, stocking an aisle, and other menial tasks. These are only useful when you're catching major heat and are getting close to being fired, because once your heat level reaches 30, your game immediately ends. Most of the actions are straightforward, such as moving your pawn to another location, calling the boss over to your location, or tattling on another player when the boss is in your location, which allows you to move the boss to any other position on the board.

The boss is truly the "x-factor" in the game, because you cannot steal things, slack off, or insult customers when he's in your space, and if you're copping some stolen merchandise when he's in your space, irrespective of how or when he gets to you, you must make a suspicion roll. The saving grace regarding the boss is that the boss can only move once per turn, so if he's moved on your turn due to an event card, your own action, or a plot, you know he can't be moved again, freeing you to rob the place dry or tell off the customers.

Suspicion rolls are the main deterrent to theft and slacking off, because if you get caught, you are completely screwed. You lose everything that you've stolen but haven't stashed, and for each item you've stolen you take some heat. Some items, such as a handgun, lottery tickets, and stolen money from the register cost you more heat if you're caught, but they're definitely worth stealing because they're the most valuable items in the game.

The mechanic is such that for each uncompleted task on the location you're currently in when you get waylaid by the boss, you add one to the total you need to roll above, and for each item you have secreted in your jacket you add another point. Again, the choice items from the register are more valuable, and thus add two to the suspicion roll rather than the normal one. If you pass the check by rolling above the total, you've eluded the boss's ire. If you're caught, though, all your stolen items go to the office and you catch the heat.

Now stealing items isn't all that easy, either, especially late in the game when lots of customers are strolling the aisles. With two exceptions, if a customer is in a location that you'd like to steal from, you can't. Add to that the fact that you can't steal when the boss is near, and it forces you to deal with the customers, either positively or negatively, to get them out of your face so you can grab the goods. Once you've got stolen items, you place them face up on your player card, and to bank them, you need to head to the storeroom and spend an action to stash them, which allows you to turn the items you've gotten face-down on your card and redeem them for points at the end of the game.

Another way to make some points, as I noted, is to mess with customers. While many customers have no special traits and are the typical fare you'd find at a convenience store, such as a soccer mom, a stoner, or a drunken, naked customer, some have special powers that affect the game. The ADHD kid moves around the store every time a new customer enters, the punk convenience rats will grant you free cards as they plot against "the man" with you, and my favorite, the Angry S.O.B., will "cockpunch" you if you insult him, thus forcing you to lose your next turn. Yes, the card says "cockpunch" right on it.

Anyhow, you are limited in what you can do when a customer's around, and when their work marker is drawn, the player who took the card may place them in the location of their choice based upon the icons on the card itself. Again, you can always help them to reduce the heat on you, but you don't get any points if you do so. As an unofficial variant, we've chosen that you must actually come up with an insult for the given customer to complete the action, and that adds some serious spice to the game. Telling the ADHD kid that the best part of him is still stuck to his mom's fleabag mattress just seems to add something somehow.

Besides stealing and insulting customers, the final way to score points is to slack off. When you're in a location that has a slacking off work marker, you can choose, as an action, to slack off for points. This is the only mechanic in the game that is persistent from turn to turn, and when you choose the action, you place a slacking off token on the work marker under your pawn. As an action you can end your slacking off and bank the points, or you can continue slacking up to five times. Once you've gotten the maximum of five tokens on the marker, you can't slack off anymore and have to close out the action to bank the points.

Some slacking markers are listed with a multiplier, so when you bank them, they double in value and you can bank twice the slack tokens. The downside of slacking is that if the boss comes by when you're slacking off, you have to make a suspicion roll, and the markers have a suspicion value listed that generally starts at two points, making them risky. Add to that the fact that you have to add the suspicion value of all the stolen items you have in hand, and it makes for a very risky proposition as all of your opponents will be just dying to get the boss over to you in order to screw you over.

The final, and arguably most devilish, strategic aspect of the game are the plot cards. These cards allow you to do all kinds of things that range from instantly nailing the opponent of your choice with three heat points or allowing you to move your figure to the Storeroom for free all the way through sending the boss to a location or being allowed to respond to a suspicion roll by sneaking off to another location. At any time on your turn you can, for an action, discard as many plots as you want and draw more, or simply draw up to your maximum if you're running low. Plot cards can be played, for free, at any point in your turn and two specific ones can be played in response to being hosed by an opponent.

As I noted, there's player elimination in the game due to getting too much heat, but there's another method as well, which are the red work markers. These events are the pinnacle of being a malicious employee, and range from leaving the back door open to telling the boss what he can do with that tube of Preparation H in aisle 3. These are worth six points, but instantly cause you to be fired and thus eliminated from the game. The game ends on its own when the last work marker card has been drawn from the pile, with the player who drew it not even getting to play out that last turn. Players tally their stashed items' values, their slack tokens, and finally, half the amount of their heat points remaining when the game ends. The winner's the one who has the highest score, and although the game makes no reference to resolving ties, we've run into this and decided that the player who stole the most individual items is the winner, in the spirit of the game's name.

The short version is that this game is loaded with player interaction, and it actually scales really well from two to six players. The two player game isn't as satisfying because you will invariably be trading blows with only each other, but when played with three or more it is an outstanding game. I was shocked with how much not only I enjoyed it, but how much every single person who I've played it with has. This game is absolutely in the pole position for my favorite game of the year thus far, and with Battleship Galaxies and Conquest of Nerath being contenders for that spot, this was the stealth candidate that I never saw coming. If you like Cosmic Encounter, then you will love this game. There's some randomness to it, but virtually every decision you make in the game will affect the outcome, for better or worse.

One of the best characteristics of the game is that not only are the turns quite short, the game breezes along at a wonderful pace, even with six players, and ends in right around an hour or an hour and a half. It truly hits that rarely seen perfect balance between being too long and drawn out and being too short, wishing you had ten more turns. I simply cannot recommend this game any more highly, and I'm glad I took the time at GenCon to eyeball it, otherwise I may never have heard about it, which would've been a total shame.

Why I Want To Rob A Convenience Store After Playing This Game:
- Only the NHL has more direct player interaction
- The fun, novel theme and whimsical cartoon style is absolutely wonderful
- Replay value is tremendous as the ever-changing situation makes no game play the same
- There's enough randomness that the risks you take are never completely certain to work out
- The game is just plain funny, and a riot may occur from the laughter around the board

What Caused Me To Become The Cockpunching, Angry S.O.B.
- The box art screams, "Don't Buy Me!"
- This is NOT for the easily offended as there's a lot of off-color humor
- It's a bit on the expensive side at an MSRP of $44.95, but you can always steal it, right?

This game is simply one of the best games I've played in the last year, and with its cartoonish art, its irreverent theme, and its dorm room potty humor, it's absolutely a blast. Don't let the theme and art fool you, this is a very strategic came with cut-throat action throughout that would make Jack The Ripper blush. If you like games with player interaction and a mean streak, your collection simply will not be complete without it. I give almost all of my review copies away, but there's not a chance in hell that any of you will get your hands on this copy by my hand. It's just too good.

4.625/5 Stars

You can learn more at the Minion Games site here:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Zooloretto - Enslave Animals And Slaughter Pandas For Fun And Profit

A few years ago, I was told by a couple of friends about this neat little zoo building game where players vie for odd-lot truckloads of critters for their zoos. Suffice to say, I was unimpressed by the sound of it. Then, I got a chance to play it. Holy God in Heaven; what a fun, nasty little game it turned out to be! While it has well-illustrated cute little pandas, leopards, and kangaroos, don't be fooled by the looks. This game is about stabbing your buddies in the back as best you can while trying to create your own personal menagerie of critters to take over the world. Well, the zoo world, anyhow.

The concept of the game is that two to five competing corporate henchmen have opened zoos, and the object of the game is sort of a "The Price Is Right" version of zoology in that you're trying to fill all of your pens with precisely the right amount of varmints without going over. The turns are incredibly brisk, and the downtime is at a minimum the entire game. It's just a ton of fun, and while the strategic options are fairly limited as it's a mildly simple game, there's enough zebra meat on the bones to provide a very satisfying time to both younger players and total game geeks like myself.

The box is quite nicely illustrated, as are the five player boards and zoo expansion boards that are included. The rules leave nothing to chance, are very well written, and come complete with illustrations to help with the finer points. Also included is a nice cloth bag, a bunch of wooden, silver coins, a big, red, wooden coin to mark the last round, and finally, there's five wooden slats and about a bazillion animal, animal baby, coin, and concession stand chits with which to populate your burgeoning zoo.

I guess I should mention that there's also some multi-language reference cards, but after the first play you'll leave them in the box. All in all, the production values are perfect, and the only thing that really is missing is a Smallworld-style chit holder, which would've been a great addition. I bought a small Plano box to store everything separately, and it was well worth the four dollar investment, especially as it fits perfectly inside the box.

Setting up the game is a total breeze, and depending on the amount of players in the game, you may need to select a couple of animal types to keep out of the game. I recommend removing the chimps at every opportunity in smaller games, because it appears that even though the chimps have the same number of chits as the other animals, I always end up getting screwed by the monkeys; it's the board game equivalent of having a Costa Rican Capuchin toss feces at me.

Don't know why it's always them that hoses me, but I'm telling you, don't trust the chimps. They're evil. If you have them in your zoo, chances are, in my own personal experience, that no good will come of it. And yes, I know that chimps are actually apes, not monkeys. I call them monkeys to denigrate them because I hate them in this game. Did I mention that?

Anyhow, to describe this game, I'm going to assume five players because it plays best with five, although three and four player games are great, and the two-player variant is complete garbage. In a five-player game, all the species are used, so you simply toss them and all of the concession and coin chits into the cloth bag. Each player takes a game board and a wooden slat, which represent trucks. The boards are set in front of each player, and the trucks are set in the middle. Finally each player takes two wooden coins from the bank, and the game is almost ready to start. The last thing that needs to be done is that 15 random tiles are chosen from the bag and placed face down in a stack to the side, with the big red marker on top. These are the reserve for the last round, and I'll get into that in a minute.

To play, the players take turns passing the bag like a offering plate at church, yanking out chits one at a time and placing them on one of the trucks. There's three spaces on each truck, and on your turn, instead of pulling a chit, you can take a truck with chits on it to end your play for the round, thereby claiming whatever was on the truck for your own evil corporate purposes.

There's also coin actions allowed in lieu of pulling a chit, such as changing the layout of the animals on your board, buying a spare animal from an opponent, or sending an animal off to slaughter. Regarding that last bit, the rules simply note that you can "discard" a tile from your barn, but really, we all know it's not being released into the wild, so it's pretty clear that spending those coins buys you a leopard-skin rug or a set of nicely carved ivory tusks.

Anyhow, there's four pens on your player board, and each one has a capacity between four and six. For three coins you can add on an expansion pen as well, in case you really want to go for the gusto and rack up points. The downside here is that unless you completely or nearly completely fill up an animal pen, you don't normally score points for the animals within. For instance, if you have 4 kangaroos in a pen that holds six, when the game ends you don't get squat. The caveat to that is if you have a concession stand sitting in the pen, it gives you two points for each unique concession type in your zoo, not to mention that they allow you to score a point for each animal inside the incomplete pen a concession stand is in.

Some animals have little male or female symbols on them, and if you get a couple of them in the same pen, they make a baby animal, which you get for free and can place inside your pen. This can be good or bad, situationally, because if you place a fertile pair into a pen that becomes overfilled, the baby is separated from its family and sent to the barn. Luckily, though, every animal in the game is an exhibitionist and will only "do it like they do on the Discovery Channel" in pens, not in barns or on trucks, so you'll never end up with a barn full of babies you didn't want.

Regarding scoring, you don't count up the points until the end of the game. Each pen has a set of point values associated with it, with the largest pens having the highest point values, and when you completely fill a pen, you're due for the higher of the two values listed. Some pens also have coins indicated, and when you fill the pen you immediately gain that many coins. If you come close to filling the pen but have one empty spot, you gain the lower of the values listed. Then there's the concession stands I talked about. In short, it's critical to maximize the space available, and rearranging your zoo several times in a game is not remotely uncommon.

The barn is the Zooloretto version of the Island of Misfit Toys, where animals that can't be placed in a pen have to go to await their fate. Other players can buy them on their turn by paying a coin to you and one to the bank, and you can't deny them if they so choose to. If you expand your zoo or rearrange it so that you can fit an animal in one of your pens after all, you can pay a coin on your turn and move a single animal per turn to a pen. Because animals in the barn give you negative points at the end of the game, there's a huge impetus to turn pandas into lovely tapestries or have your zoo's shop loaded with stuffed animals, and I don't mean plush toys. Concession stands that are unplayable also go to the barn presumably to prepare the lovely kangaroo-on-a-stick and camel jerky for the next day's sales.

Animals and concession stands in the barn don't cost you points per chit in the barn, though, they charge you by the type. If you have an entire herd of elephants, for instance, it doesn't cost you any more points than if you simply had one elephant. You can use this to your advantage because there's a finite amount of critter chits in the game, so if someone has only a few of a varmint type that you have in the barn, the person may end up lining your pockets through the illicit purchase of said critters.

You can control quantities in this regard, and really hose people out of eight or ten points by hoarding a type of animal that's in several zoos, and it only costs you two points, so it's a big net gain. Plus, you can always send them off for the low price of two coins, which I'm assuming is the bribe used to have the officials look the other way while your staff is serving up elephant steaks at your concession stands.

When the last chit is pulled from the bag, the game's last turn begins. Those chits you set aside under that big red marker now get tossed into the bag and when all of the trucks have been taken for the round, the game immediately ends. Tally up the points, and the person with the highest score gets to do a victory lap around the room. In case of a tie, the person with the most cash left in hand wins.

In conclusion, this is a really, really fun game. It's much more fun when you're playing with people that aren't AP-prone, and even more so when you're playing with sadistic individuals such as myself that wonder aloud if the Flamingo meat you just carved up for two coins tastes anything like bald eagle or spotted owl. The game can be very, very backstabbity with experienced players, and while the cute, lovable little animals and animal babies can lull you into thinking it's primarily a game for kids, it's definitely a sinister game of corporate greed, illegal slaughter, and illicit ivory trade.

There are a MESS of expansions for this game as well, extending the life of an already infinitely replayable game and adding some truly epic, game changing stuff such as a petting zoo, larger concessions, and small aquarium attractions among others. A couple of the expansions are even downloadable, for free, from Rio Grande Games' site, and I'm telling you that if you don't like this game, you may be a fun-bludgeoning snapperhead.

I truly adore this game, and I cannot envision myself ever trading it because it always gets played, a good year and a half after I got it. If I had to pick on just one thing, there's not much in the way of direct player interaction beyond maliciously placing chits on trucks you know someone wants, thus sticking an opponent with a critter they can't use or dissuading them from taking the truck. As someone who likes to whine about stuff, it's a pretty short list.

Why I Love Being A Zookeeper:
- Great art, quality bits, and cute theme make this a truly fun experience
- Quick turns keeps downtime to a minimum, so you're always doing something
- While it's a simple game, mechanically, there's a ton of strategy to be had
- Playtime of an hour and fifteen makes it the perfect length

What Makes Me Want To Fling Poo Like A Dread Chimp:
- There's not much direct player interaction, instead it's more "messing with the resource pool"
- They should've sacked up and admitted "discarding a tile" equates to serving Leopardburgers

If you have kids, buy this game. If you don't have kids, buy this game. Just buy this game. The only people I wouldn't recommend this game to would be someone who doesn't like Euro-style optimization games or that don't have a lot of direct player interaction. I bought this on Ebay for full boat, and I absolutely have gotten my money's worth.

4.25/5 Stars

Check out the game at Rio Grande's site here, if you're interested, and you can get the expansions here too:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Superfly Circus GenCon 2011 Special Edition Magazine

I'm back from GenCon, and because I love my readers so very much, I took the time to go the extra mile. Not only did I do my usual write-up, I did it in e-magazine format!

You seriously need to check out all the crazy shit I saw at GenCon this year, and there's all kinds of photos, news, and articles within to help you understand just how awesome the trip can be.

Highlights include:
Star Trek: Fleet Captain
Fantasy Flight
Wizards of the Coast
Alderac Entertainment Group
"The Afterparties" and barhopping in Indianapolis
The People Of GenCon
Dungeon Crawlers
The "You Stink And You're Foul" Campaign
....and much, much more.

Best part, it's completely free.

Download the 20 MB extravaganza here:

or here...if you can't see the thumbnail reader view above:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Psiduel - Dionne Warwick Would Get Her Ass Kicked

The urban myth says that the average person uses less than 10% of their brain, and the latent part could be developed to provide supernatural psychic powers. I don't know about superpowers and all of that jazz, I'd just like to not lose my keys so often.

Thankfully, Travesty games believes the myth because they've come out with a game that has two superhuman brainiacs blasting each other with psychic powers that would make Dionne Warwick's Psychic Friends Network go green with envy. Or maybe cause their heads to explode in a sea of broken teeth and grey matter. Either way, it's got really cool art, and in a 2-player card game, only the art and gameplay really matter.

I got this review copy after gently harassing one of the owners, Gil Nicoll, with my own brand of supernatural ability, the ability to annoy a person to death with seas of emails and phone calls. He sent it out, and it arrived within a couple of days, and I was on it like stink on tournament Magic players.

I read the rules, and was absolutely dumbfounded because I couldn't figure out how to separate the cards into the two equal decks that was required. As it turns out, my amazing psychic powers were not nearly up to the task of turning the deck over and noticing Alpha and Omega symbols on the backs of the cards that indicated whose cards they were. While it was clearly an oversight on my part, I was a little bummed that it wasn't in the rules, and I have to admit, I called Gil to get the skinny.

The rules had another omission that required me to call Travesty, which was how to count life as it was indicated that you needed to track life, but nothing in the box allowed for it. He told me that a pencil and paper or D10 die are perfect for the task, which was fine by me. In fairness, though, I have to dock them a point for not having a complete, playable game out of the box for that, just as I did for Munchkin.

Another point was docked, so to speak, for the rules, which were not nearly as clear when it came to life tracking, setup, and some of the finer points as I would've otherwise wanted to see. Gil reassured me that I got a pre-release copy and that the rules are already printed and amended with the appropriate information, so he gets his point back for that, at least.

The game ships in a single-deck box, and contains 72 cards and a single 8.5 by 11 rule sheet complete with explanations and illustrations on how to play. As noted before, the art is absolutely superb, and while the rules were reasonably well written when it comes to gameplay, there were a few questions on setup as I previously mentioned.

The real trick is to read the rules while looking at the cards, because the rules don't go into detail regarding each and every card, so it helps immensely to take a quick look at the cards to understand the interactions between them. As noted, you will absolutely need something to track ten life points, but beyond that, it's good to go right out of the box. That's all there is to the game, and for a fifteen dollar card game, that's all there really needs to be.

Starting the game is simple. First, you will need to separate the cards, using the Alpha and Omega symbols on the card backs. Each player has an identical set of 36 cards, and they'll stack them into defense and attack decks based on the indication on the card fronts, with 18 each. Each player will choose six starting defense cards and set them in front of them, face down, in a two deep by three wide formation, which represent your psychic defenses.

These also act as targets for your opponents attacks, and the value of the card, one, two, or three, is printed on the backs. The first player may then draw five cards from any of their two decks, and the second player draws seven. On each subsequent round, each player, on their turn, will draw two more cards to replenish their hands.

To play the cards against their psychic nemesis, players must burn cards equal to the value of the card played in order to activate it. This method also applies when replacing defeated defense cards. There's a variety of card types to play on offense, such as the beam or blast power cards that affect only a single card in the front row of your enemy's defense, or other cards such as the arc that damages a V shaped pattern of cards. Some cards penetrate the front row and will also affect the back row, and all of the cards have special abilities that trigger if a defense card is destroyed.

Speaking of defense, there's a variety of those card types as well. In all cases, if a defense card is not destroyed by an attack, a defensive power is triggered which can do such things as cause the vile opponent to burn cards from his draw pile, allow you to look through the top few cards of either of your decks and rearrange them, and the best part, reflect damage back to your opponent.If a defense card is revealed, but not destroyed, you may replace it with another card that you have in hand, for free, on your turn.

The final aspect of resolving attacks is direct damage, the only thing that will win the game. Attack cards will have a damage value and type of damage displayed, and this value determines how much of a junk-punch you actually do to the mind of your opponent, which is represented in life points. The final aspect of attacking is that if you do direct damage to the opponent, and it's caused in the middle row of defense cards, the player receives double damage. Do ten damage to your adversary, and you win the game.

There is a lot of strategic variety in the game, and while the cards can be somewhat complex to resolve when a bomb or arc card is played, as you must resolve multiple cards, this game is incredibly fast-playing. If you took more than thirty minutes to play, even initially, you're probably doing something wrong.

This is a smart, fun little card game, and this comes from a guy who is perpetually 'meh' about card games in general. If I had one real reservation about this, it's that there's only 18 cards per side on offense and defense, and thus the replay value may suffer in the long term, although I've played it quite a bit and haven't found myself tiring of it yet. The long and short is that it is certainly a hell of a quick, two player filler game for a husband and wife to play or for a couple of friends to play while waiting for the rest of the squad to arrive on game night.

Why I Foresee This Being Well Liked:
- The art and theme are perfectly intertwined, and the dark feeling of the game is awesome
- The speed and pace of the game is perfect for its type, a light, fun filler game
- The price of is perfect for the product

What Made My Head Explode:
- There were a few omissions in the rules that I had to contact Travesty Games about
- You really need to look at the cards before playing to understand how the cards actually interact
- I have to be consistent; there's no way to track life in the box, and that's a big no-no in my book

I like this game quite a bit, and the dark theme is gritty and reminds me quite a bit of the Silent Hill series of video games, although the cards that depict a male remind me of Agent 47 from the Hitman series of games. In both cases, I was thoroughly impressed. The game is very tight, and quite well designed, and the only complaints I have with it are that the rules could've used a hair more polish, which I am told was addressed, and that there is no life tracker in the box. As far as short, filler-type card games go, this is a great choice for people that like huge, nasty player interaction and a strong theme.

3.5/5 Stars

Check out Psiduel here, at the Travesty Games website:

Here's the pre-release rule sheet:

You can demo this game at GenCon Indy 2011 at the Travesty Games booth, number 757! Go mess with Gil and Adam, and tell them that Pete sent you!