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Subject: Cheap, Charming, and Ultimately Shallow rss

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Dickie Crickets
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One of the main criticisms of Cheapass Games is that many of their releases feature terrific concepts but relatively empty execution. A game that fits this bill is Freeloader, which is an interesting idea and often quite funny, but features rather bland and shallow gameplay. Honestly, you'd have just about as much fun reading the cards in your easy chair as you would playing through the game properly. While I admire Cheapass Games for putting out inexpensive games with creative motifs, I can't really recommend Freeloader.

The concept of the game is actually pretty fun. You and the other players are a bunch of slackers, sponging off of your circle of six employed (or, at least, money-possessing) friends. There's a doctor, a lawyer, an artist, etc. Players take turns, and they have various options at their disposal. They can 'add a favor' to one of their six friends' houses, which they can use to 'buy' something later. Or, they can draw a card, which will feature some sort of item or luxury that they can 'buy' with built-up favors. 'Buying' an item also takes up an entire turn of its own. Alternatively, the player can simply roll the dice, either because he/she wants to move to another part of the board, or to simply see what fate has in store. The game's most potent move - stealing an item from another player - can only come from landing on specific spaces on the board. When all of the cards have been drawn, the game is over, and the person with the highest total value of items is the winner. However, to be eligible for the victory, the player must have at least one food, one clothing, and one shelter item in their collection. These card types are all quite common, though.

Unfortunately, there just isn't much to the gameplay. Let's say, for example, that you have the Doctor's Car card. I don't remember how expensive it is, but let's say it costs five 'favors.' Here's the most efficient way you could earn it:
Turn 1: Put a favor on the Doctor's House. End turn.
Turn 2: Ditto.
Turn 3: Ditto.
Turn 4: Ditto.
Turn 5: Ditto.
Turn 6: You 'buy' the car with all the favors you built up. End turn.
And that's basically the game in a nutshell. Not exactly a wild thrill ride. The game features some cute nuances, like the ability to be the best friend of somebody and get a 'discount' on their stuff, but these are minor little tweaks at best.

The bland gameplay is a shame, since the cards and items themselves are pretty funny and deserve a better purpose. Many of the food items and shelters, especially the low-value ones, are borderline hilarious. My friends and I shared quite a few laughs as we played through our first game. Unfortunately, we have yet to feel the urge to play a second one. A game like Munchkin has enough gameplay to survive after most of the comedy has worn off; Freeloader is not so fortunate.

If you can get the game for dirt cheap, you might want to give it a shot. The cards provide funny reading material, if nothing else. Just note that like all Cheapass Games, no dice or tokens are provided. You'll need a token for each player, and a considerable pile of beads/stones/coins whatever for each person to represent favors. A bit of a disappointment, but a harmless and charming one.
 
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