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Subject: Bedlam: The Most Fun I Have Had Since Weasel Stomping Day (a review) rss

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David McMillan
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Madison
Tennessee
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Cute bunnies, Brains to the face, and Leather Underpants, oh my! Bedlam is pure insanity wrapped in bacon, deep fried, and covered in cheese... on a stick! In the game of Bedlam, you will use your cards and your wits in an attempt to make your opponents Go Crazy or Get Scared to Death. With over 180 unique cards, you can be sure that no two games will ever be alike.

Bedlam is a game for 2 to 4 people. Each person begins the game with Heart and Mind points and throughout the game they will face Encounters and Ordeals and these Heart and Mind points will either be gained or lost. As they face these challenges, their opponents will try everything they can to Screw Things Up by playing cards from their hands that can have drastic effects on the flow of battle.

Before I go any further into this review, I’d like to take a moment to thank Sam and Dave at Madhouse Ink for providing me with the review copy of Bedlam that this review is based on. They have not influenced this review in anyway. Rest assured, if this game is terrible, I will tell you about it. You can check out their KickStarter here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1692853562/bedlam-a-thor...

CONTENTS

Depending on which version of the game that you own, the contents may vary. Deluxe versions of the game come with extra stuff. What I received were over 180 unique and amazingly illustrated cards along with a card that could be used to mark the Effects area, a card to mark the Events area, 4 handy turn reference cards, and two cards to track the shifting Sanity and Courage of any Encounters that will be faced during game play. We also received about 10 rubber bands that held all of the various decks together which we subsequently shot at our cats. Your copy of the game may or may not come with rubber bands.

During the course of this review, if you encounter any strange terminology that is unfamiliar to you, then know that I will cover everything in due course.

SET UP

The Dark deck is shuffled together and placed in the center of the table. The Events and Effects marker cards are placed to the left of this with room left in between them and the Dark deck for The Pile. Off to the side you will place the Encounter Stat cards and place a single counter on each of these. Then, the Rewards deck is shuffled and each player is dealt 14 cards each.

Once each player receives their cards, they also receive 4 heart and 4 mind tokens to begin the game with. Then each player will draw 3 cards from their Rewards deck and 3 cards from the Dark deck and these six cards will become their starting hand. Some random method is used to determine who goes first and you are ready to begin playing.

TAKING A TURN

Taking a Turn in Bedlam consists of several distinct steps. During each of these steps, certain things can be done and certain things cannot be done. The following is a list of the steps along with the things that can be done during each:

1. GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER: During this step, a player will untip their Stuff, reset their slider to 5/5, draw cards from the Dark deck until they have a total of 6 cards in hand, and then remove any Events that expire on their turn
2. OPEN THE FLOODGATES: Starting with the player to the left, people can throw things onto The Pile until an Active Encounter is chosen
3. SCREW THINGS UP: The active player’s opponents will take turns throwing things at them in an effort to unbalance them so that they will fail at the Active Encounter
4. FACE THE MUSIC: The active player can use their own cards or Stuff to try to restore the balance and successfully defeat the Active Encounter
5. DISCARD CARDS: The active player must reduce their hand to no more than 6 cards. They can play Stuff, Events, or Effects or they can discard or some mixture of these so long as they end their turn with no more than 6 cards in hand. Then the Active Encounter is discarded along with any Effects played this turn (unless the cards say otherwise).

So, let’s tackle each of these individually.

GETTING YOUR ACT TOGETHER, STUFF, AND THE SLIDER

The slider is a device that is used to track your Courage and Sanity levels. The Courage level will affect how many Heart tokens you win or lose during your turn and Sanity affects your Mind tokens in the same way. During your turn, you may move your slider up to 3 times. The Courage and Sanity levels are the exact opposite on the slider so that, if you move up one, you are moving down the other. The default setting for the slider is right in the middle with both Courage and Sanity set at 5 each. Part of Getting Your Act Together is to reset your slider to these defaults.

Stuff are cards which can be played into each player’s personal area that will either provide some benefit to the player that is using them or be somehow detrimental to their opponents. Sometimes, Stuff can be used for both. For instance, there are Stuff that allow you to give a target -2 sanity. If you were trying to defeat an encounter, you could use your Stuff to give the horrifying thing that you are fighting -2 sanity to make it easier to defeat. This same Stuff could be used during your opponent’s Screw Things Up phase to give your opponent -2 sanity to make it tougher for them to defeat whatever nightmarish thing that they are trying to beat. Some types of Stuff require you to tip them. To ‘tip your Stuff’ you just turn the Stuff onto its side. Your Stuff does not untip until it is your Get Your Act Together phase.

There are 3 kinds of Stuff and you may only have one of each in play at a time. The Stuff type is listed at the top of the cards and the Stuff types are: Buddies, Things, and Weapons. If you have a Stuff of a particular type in play already and then place another Stuff of the same type into play, then the first Stuff gets discarded. This is the only way to get rid of Stuff as you can never voluntarily discard a Stuff for no particular reason. You can get upset and chunk your Stuff at your friends, but you cannot discard it.

The last thing that happens during this step is that any Events or Effects that expire on your turn go away now. Some Event cards will have markers on them that will track how long they’ve been around. Some will tell you how long they hang around for in the card text. The important thing is, if it’s your turn and something is expiring, it goes away at this time.

OPENING THE FLOODGATES

Opening the floodgates will eventually determine which card you will be facing this round. If there’s not already a card in the Pile, then you begin by drawing a card from the Dark deck and placing it face up into the Pile. If nobody else does anything about it, and if you don’t do anything about it, then this is the card that you will be facing.

Once there’s a card on the Pile, your opponents can place Enemies or Ordeals from their hands onto the Pile beginning with the player on your left. Unless your opponents are complete idiots (in which case you will likely win the game!) they will most likely try to throw bigger and badder creatures onto the Pile in an effort to pit you against something that they figure you’ll have a tough time defeating. Once it gets back to you, you can face whatever card is there or you can play a card from your hand onto the Pile and the cycle begins anew. A player who passed previously can hop onto the make-things-rough-for-you bandwagon if they choose to. This kind of thing goes on until you decide to face whatever is on top of the Pile or you are forced to. This card becomes the Active Encounter.

There is one caveat, though. If someone plays a yellow card, then that card immediately becomes the Active Encounter.

SCREWING THINGS UP

If the Active Encounter is an Enemy (not an Ordeal... Ordeals are faced alone and cannot be tampered with), then your opponents will have the chance to try to mess everything up for you. Starting with the player on the left, they can use any combination of Stuff, Events, or Effects to try to make you fail. Typically, they will do something to try to throw your slider out of whack. Remember that the slider begins in a default balanced state at 5/5. Your opponent could give you -2 Sanity which would start your slider at 5/3. Another opponent could give you -1 Courage which would then start your slider out at 4/3. Your opponents could even use this opportunity to ADD stats to the Active Encounter that you are facing! If that happens, you can track these changes to the Enemy using the Encounter Stats cards.

Once people have run out of mean things to do to you, you get to Face the Music.

FACING THE MUSIC

If the Active Encounter is an Effect or Stuff card, you just pick it up and add it to your hand.

If it’s an Enemy then you can use as many Stuff, Event Cards, and Effect cards as you like in an effort to defeat it.

Each Enemy card has a number on the left hand side that represents its Courage and a number on the right hand side that represents its Sanity. If you are able to muster up more Courage than the Enemy, then you are considered Brave and you gain a Heart token. If you are able to muster up more Sanity than the Enemy, then you are considered Sane and you gain a Mind token. If you are able to equal, but not surpass it on Courage, then it is a draw and you do not gain or lose anything. Likewise if you come out to a draw on Sanity. However, if you are unable to even equal the Enemy on Courage, then you lose a heart token and are considered Scared. If you are unable to even equal the Enemy on Sanity, then you are considered Crazy and you will lose a Mind token.

Some Enemies have effects that fire off when they are beaten in certain ways or you lose in certain ways. For instance, an Enemy might have an effect the reads something like "SCARED: Your hands are shaking. Discard 2 cards." This would not affect you if you were Brave. Another thing that you will see on some cards is BURN. This means that, once the effect is used, then the card is removed from the game. If a Stuff or Event or some such would force someone to Burn something, it just means that they have to remove it from the game.

Underneath the Courage and Sanity numbers are some additional numbers. This is the number of Rewards you get to add to your hand from your Rewards deck if you defeat the Enemy on this particular stat. If you defeat an Enemy on Courage, for example, and the number beneath that reads ‘2’ then you would draw two Rewards cards and add them to your hand.

Once you’ve faced the music and resolved all of that, then you will play and/or discard cards until you are down to no more than six cards in your hand total. Then it is the next player’s turn and you get to repay all of their kindness.

END GAME

As soon as someone hits a total of 18 Heart and/or Mind tokens in any combination (i.e. 14 Heart and 4 Mind OR 5 Heart and 13 Mind) then they are declared the winner and the game comes to an end. You may then scowl at them or high five them if you like. The rules don’t specify which. I suppose you could shoot a rubber band at their cat and that would do just as well.

THOUGHTS

Ever since I first saw this game, I’d been dying to get my hands on it to give it a try. The artwork is fetching and the game sounded like an interesting concept. When Sam and Dave agreed to send a review copy for my gaming group, I couldn’t have been any more elated. Checking the mailbox became exciting again.

So, the package finally arrived and my wife and I eagerly ripped into it like two children fighting over the Christmas gift that the tag had fallen off of. Inside we found several bundles of cards and we just stood there reading them and laughing for what felt like hours. Everything about these cards looks awesome. The flavor text and the art work is hysterical.

The first thing that impressed me was not just the artwork and the writing, though. I was amazed at the sheer enormity of just how many cards there are. This game comes packed with over 180 unique cards. When I say unique, I mean unique. There is not a single repeat card in the game. At first, with so many cards to look at and with no concept of the game play, it felt like an insane mismatched jumble of crazy pictures and silly jokes. But, after actually playing, it is obvious that these guys have spent a long time getting these cards just right. This isn’t just a collection of amazing art, this is a very playable and very enjoyable game.

My wife and I played for about an hour and we were both neck in neck. I had 13 tokens total and she was sitting at 14. She had maybe one more Heart/Mind token than I did. She had a Buddy in play that she could Burn for +2 Mind tokens and, unknown to me, she also held a Thing in her hand that she could Burn to take control of my turn. It came to my Open the Floodgates phase and she passed. There was something insane on top of the Pile that I had no hope of defeating, so I played a kitten. She then followed that up with a two-headed monster named Ed. Ed’s defeat effect was pretty awesome, but his lose effect was rather painful. I took a look at my hand and at my Stuff and I felt pretty confident that I could beat him, so I just left him there. If figured that if I beat him, it would put me into the lead.

That’s when she Screwed Everything Up. She threw down her Thing and Burned it and took my turn for me. Needless to say, she made me lose. Ed’s lose ability Burned every single card out of my hand. At the end of the turn, Ed got discarded and she got to face down the Kitten that I had played earlier since I didn’t have any cards to throw onto the Pile during her Open the Floodgates phase. She then put the smack down on the kitten and collected her Heart and Mind token for winning. Once she’d done that, she Burned her Buddy and won the game. Just like that, my wife annihilated me in two turns.

Rather than get upset, I just sat there amazed. My wife had just won by beating up a kitten in the most awesome way possible. Never before have I played a game where something this crazy has happened. But, that’s the way Bedlam is. You’ll move along, just playing the game when out of nowhere, someone’s throwing their leather underpants at you and stealing all of your cards. Bedlam is, hands down, one of the greatest card games that I have ever played. If you’re not playing it, then you’re missing out on something really special.

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Jonas Persson
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Thanks, backed on KS.
 
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Jonas Persson
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zwinx wrote:
Thanks, backed on KS.


And now upgraded to deluxe-tier. The sliders feels like a "must have" :-)
 
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Bob Flaherty
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Loves Park
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Thumbs for the Weird Al Reference.
And thanks for the review, wish I had the funds to back this one.
 
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that Matt
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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I'm a quitter. I come from a long line of quitters. It's amazing I'm here at all.
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I can feel bits of my brain falling away like wet cake.
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Woohoo!

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O.Shane Balloun
United States
Bellingham
Washington
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I will play as the Atreides, Bene Gesserit, Emperor, Fremen, Guild, or Harkonnen.
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I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
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It reminds me of Killer Bunnies—but will it actually play well (better than KB)?
 
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