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Subject: Loco-motion for the obsessive-compulsive rss

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j b Goodwin

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Since moving into close proximity to my FLGS, I've walked past Loco! approximately one-hundred times or so without really slowing down. Neither Reiner Knitzia's ubiquitous byline or the low price really caught my interest. I figured that with about a gazillion games under his belt, if it stood out from the rest of his crop, people would tell me about it like they did about Ingenious, Samurai, Tigris and Euphrates. As for the cost, there are tons of inexpensive filler games out there.

My opponent and I get together weekly for a heavier game (usually a wargame), so I generally am not on the hunt for fillers. Ocasionally, General D's wife comes along and sits and reads while we battle, and when he and I finish playing, all three of us (four of us if my wife is along) play Ingenious or Can't Stop! Good times.

Recently, I became interested in and purchased No Thanks! A great filler game with just the right edge of obsessive-compulsive push-your-luck mechanic. I especially liked General D grabbing his head with both hands and Mrs. D's eyes bulging out when confronted with a difficult decision. When someone made a good play, we cheered, and when someone blew it, we all moaned, but mostly, we laughed.

So, after two years of passing it by, I pulled Loco! off the shelf and looked at it. I must admit, at this point, I was under the mistaken impression that Reiner Knitzia had created No Thanks!, and was intriged by the fact that Loco seemed to be the inverse of No Thanks!: instead of taking a card or playing a chip, in Loco!, you play a card and take a chip. It sounded like a fun way to liven things up a bit. As it turned out, there was no relation to No Thanks!, but that's okay.

So I got it, took it to the table with General and Mrs. D., and peeled it out of it's box. I must admit, I was not floored by the packaging. A standard double-deck tuckbox holds the thirty-card deck and a small open-top box of twenty-four chips, with one chip laying on top of the card deck itself. Not well thought out, as there is no good way to rebox the product. Perhaps we will see a two-piece box in a future edition. I suspect a lot of the current copies end up in zip-lock baggies, with the chips ending up in an old Altoids tin.

Still, the cards are nicely made, and the chips are made in five easily-distinguishable colors. Five color "suits," with six cards numbered zero to five for each color, and five chips for each color. Minimal, but nice components.

It only took a few minutes to read through the rules and teach them to the D's. I will not give the rules here. The basic idea is that every turn, you play a card from your hand onto an open pile of like-colored cards, then take a chip from one of the piles in the center of the table (not necessarily the same color as the card you played). At the end of the game, the number of the card on the top of the stack of each color determines how much each chip of that color is worth.

What this means is that if the top card at the end of a game is a "zero," then all chips of that color are worth zero points each; if the top card at the end of a game is a "five," then all chips of that color are worth five points each.

Simple idea, and the first few games, we didn't really get the depth of this quick little game. It seemed obvious that your best plays were to drop zeros late in the game on colors for which the other players owned lots of chips.

Then we realized that you wanted drop fives late in the game on colors which you own.

But then we realized that all you had to do was watch the chips other people were collecting, and you'd be able to figure out what cards they probably had in their hand.

Then we realized that you might occasionally take a "junk chip," just to throw the others off.

Then we realized you could go for moderately-scored colors and win.

Then our eyes started bulging out of our heads and we began to deeply distrust one another.

Then we played another game, and another.

And now I doubt that the D's would lend me money or let me watch their home if they went away for a month.

In short, this is an addictive little game with a lot of tension to it. Playing time is between five and ten minutes, depending on how long you agonize over your decisions, but that's only if you play once. I don't think you will. I won't.

Why would you like this game?
Because you don't already have enough tension in your life! And it's cheap.

Why might you NOT like this game?
Because you do already have more than enough tension in your life! And there are no miniatures, dice or expansions.

Should you get it?
Sure you should! If you are as emotionally worn-out after a few rounds of this game as I was, you will not be able to go out into the world and start wars or foment discontent. And that will make the world a better place. All for under ten bucks.
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Phil K
United States
Cambridge
Massachusetts
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Hilarious description of the mind games! Entertaining review =)
 
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