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Swamp Ass

Demetri
United States
Raleigh
North Carolina
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Man. Maaaaaaaaaan. Remember when I wrote about Furnace a while back I said I adored its core mechanism but not the game around it? This is that again, but possibly even more painful. This game was announced almost 5 years ago and I have no idea why it took so long, but I guess it wasn't in development hell because this thing has problems.

Folks who've read my stuff know I love to see inventive ways of utilizing roll & move. Bayou Bash, to its credit, has an excellent one. Combinations of dice and resources are on cards, which are drafted from last place to first. This means first player is typically handed the dregs. It's a very organic, interesting way to approach rubberbanding that never feels forced like many catchup mechanisms do. Add in that the deal is players +1 so the last player also gets to burn a card for additional control and wow! That rules! Surely the actual game will too, right?

No. Wrong. Absolutely not. The enjoyability begins and ends with the draft. Turns are slow, chockablock with fussy rules and far too many triggers to resolve. Combat feels like an obligation rather than a priority. The dynamic of fans (VPs) storming the track and being vulnerable is interesting in theory, but in practice it just means everyone's score is ambiguous until the end. And perhaps most egregiously, the terrain obstacles do nothing but frustrate and potentially force turn-loss. That's not something the draft can solve either, because even if you're in last you still may not be able to unstick yourself from a crappy position without using racer abilities that may not be availed to you.

It sucks because BB is so close to doing something really cool with that core mechanism. I think some heavy house ruling and shorter tracks than the rulebook recommends could make it much more enjoyable. But there are already far better racing games, games with quick turns, games that feel more like a race and less like constantly adjusting a common ledger. I'm not going to spend more time on one that still needs work.
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