Love live the Empress!
For the Motherland!
There’s a smidgen of gaming companies out there who try to make games that are both fun and funny. Let’s be honest: most of them out there fail miserably. But occasionally a gem will shine out. The company that is most well known for its humorous games is “Cheap Ass Games”. Yes, that’s actually their name. They have dozens of games, most of which, in this author’s opinion, are hardly worth the paper they’re printed on. The mechanics are usually sacrificed for funny theme, which dissipates after a few plays. Given their price and the fact they have some good games, I will occasionally be willing to spend the $10 or less to check one of their titles out. Here is a review of one that is a little less known by their company.
Title: One False Step
Overview: Players are running for governor of California in the late 19th century. Or some reason, whomever send men to the moon will win the popularity of the people to win the election. Whomever has more “popularity”, wins. (Yeah, I know…it’s not logical. Deal with it by chuckling a little.)
Components: The game comes with 8 color boards about the size of a 5x7” notecard. Color is unusual for Cheapass, and so this is a treat. The art on the cards is nothing fancy. Cities are represented by rectangle-like shapes with funny names (like Big Butte), and are connected via lines to green rectangles (farms) and gold circles (gold mines). It makes a large web-like map on each card. The game also comes with mini playing-card sized “technology ratings”, which tells you how technologically advanced your rockets are. There are also a small deck of player cards each having the city on them. Each player also gets a cheat sheet which tells what happens each day of a week (a week is equal to 1 turn). There are also 3 “know-how” cards for each rocket system. All of the above are thin cardboard, but are glossy. Since Cheapass is, well, cheap, this is something to be expected, so this is actually pretty good for a $7.50 game. The remainder of the components you must provide yourself. This includes 3 paperclips per person, a LOT of poker chips…about 100 per color x4 colors, 2 six-sided dice, and about 30 markers (like glass beads or pennies) per player. Most of this stuff people have around the house, with the exception of the poker chips. The latter makes it difficult to continue to make the game “cheap” as poker chips, even the miniature ones, can drive the price up another $20. The box is Cheapass’ standard size, but could be a bit bigger, especially if you keep the paperclips in the box for storage.
Pros: For $7.50, the components are much higher quality than Cheapass’ other products, especially since they are in color and on glossy paper.
Cons: The poker chips needed can make this $7.50 game into a $27.50 game.
Mechanics: The game is a race, and as such, would make an excellent “Step 2 Gateway” game. Each player starts with 20 influence chips, 4 food chips, and 0 gold chips. The board is then “made” using any 5 of the 8 modular boards that will fit together in a variety of ways to make a region. In this regard, the board is never the same game twice. Give each player 3 rocket system cards (1 for each system) and a paperclip to mark the numerical value of each. Each player also gets a cheat sheet. Shuffle and stack the city cards that are on the board face down. Each player then gets a city by bidding influence chips on each city that turns up. Each player MUST have a city. The player with the highest population city is the “first player” for that turn, and goes first each day of the week. Then the game begins:
Sunday: Populate city cards. Add 1 population marker (glass bead or penny) to each face up city you have. Also, move any population marker on a train to their destination city.
Monday: Move people from city cards to the board. They can be placed on the city itself, or move to farms/mines (claims) that are on the end of an unbroken line of owned claims to the player’s city from which they came. Think of it like connect the dots. You can also try to “jump a claim” of another players. If you do so, both players roll a six-sided dice and add it to the number of people in the city from which the person came. In the defending person’s case, it can be ANY city connected to their claim being jumped. Higher number wins. Once a marker/person is on the board, they will stay there until removed by a jumped claim. People can also be placed on your rocket or “on the train” section of another city card.
Tuesday:Collect income. Collect 1 food chip for every farm you own and 1 gold chip for every mine you own.
Wednesday: Feed the people. Each city has a food requirement on it. Discard that many food chips to feed your cities.
Thursday: Rockets! You may upgrade your rocket by paying gold equal to the cost on the card. It gets exponentially more expensive to upgrade to higher and higher systems. There are 3 systems you can upgrade (and it’s really more “fluff “ than mechanics). If you have the highest value of all the players of one of the 3 systems, you have the “know-how” of that system (indicates you have the patents on, for example, the highest Engine system). Anytime anyone upgrades a system, one of the gold they spend goes to the person who has the “know-how” of that system (sort of like paying royalties to the patent owner). If someone overtakes the know-how owner and builds a “more advanced (read: higher numerical value)” system, the new person gets the know-how card for that system. You can also launch a rocket. To do so, you have the spend 4 food (to throw a rocket party!) and then roll 2d6 three times, one for each system. If your equals or is less than your technology number in that system, the system succeeds. Each success gets you an influence token. If all 3 succeed (and you launch the rocket), you get an additional influence token per person on-board.
Friday: Move 1 influence token on each inactive/facedown city to the bank (see Saturday for more details). If any city loses its last influence token, flip the city over and it becomes “active”, and can thus be used in the game.
Saturday: Flip top city card on the deck over. Players bid using influence chips on the city. The winner takes the city and places it facedown (it is now “inactive”) with HALF (round up) the bidding price in influence chips on top of it. The remaining chips go to the bank. Each city also has a influence number of it, which adds to your influence score.
WINNING: The first player to reach 30 influence points (chips + cities) wins.
Of note, gold and food may be traded amongst players. Not influence.
Pros: The game changes everytime you play, which is always a good thing. Gamers will like this since the rules are moderately complex and involve a bidding system, which minimizes the amount of luck. Non-gamers will like the “build and grow” mechanics behind it.
Cons: There are a lot of steps in each turn. The cheat sheet is helpful, but certainly doesn’t contain everything. Expect to reference the rules the first few times you play.
Strategy: This is a medium weight strategy game in that there is more than one way to win without being overly complicated. You can win by having control on technology and gaining money by other players upgrading rockets. You can win by smart bidding and having the most cities to spread people throughout the board. You can win by making lots and lots of rocket launches, playing the odds, hoping to catch a really good roll to gain a lot of influence. All in all, it comes down to getting successful rocket launches, but getting technology high enough to do that AND being able to afford the launching fee is where the variety lies.
Pros: Although 1 common goal, there are multiple paths, including bidding, trading, technology monopoly, most cities, most people, etc.
Cons: While claim jumping is rare, it can ruin the feel of this game being a race. In that regard, one could win by simply claim jumping their opponents. While a viable strategy, this could turn off some non-aggressive players.
Will my non-gaming spouse/friends like it?:
Pros: If you’ve been reading from the beginning, you know this will make a decent “next step gateway” game. It has enough rules to keep the gamer interested, but the non-gamer will appreciate the little aggression the game has (the only aggressive tactics are the bidding and the jumping of claims).
Cons: Keep in mind, though, there are a fair amount of rules and expect a decent amount of rule reviewing the first time you play (not a plus for the non-gamer). Counter this by playing thru at least once without the non-gamer.
Good for kids?: The rules are probably pretty easy for any kids to follow. It’s the strategy that will be tough. IMO, any time you add a bidding mechanic to a game, you’re asking someone to place a concrete value on something non-concrete. This can be difficult for younger children to do and play competitively. However, the mechanics should be easy enough for them to follow.
Will this work well with few (i.e. 3-4) players compared to many (i.e. 5-6) players?: The board clearly gets more crowded and the bidding becomes more fierce as more players are added. The game length gets quite long with more players, as well. Upwards of 3 hours with 4+ players. Expect more claim jumping with more players as well, since real estate is going to be prime as the game progresses. Bottom line: More players=longer game=more aggressive.
Should I buy it?: At $7.50, I can hardly tell you not to. I would strongly remind people, however, that you need 400 poker chips of 4 different colors (or an equivalent) and this can add another $20 or more to the price if you need to buy them. Otherwise, your criteria to buy include:
-if you enjoy the “race to the finish” theme of “Ticket to Ride” or “Thurn & Taxis”, but want a bit more aggression
-like bidding games, which will minimize the luck
-don’t mind having lower quality components
-can play a game that takes 2-3 hours at a time
…then One False Step may be for you.
Very nice review!
I like how you throw out questions and answer them at the end. Brilliant idea!
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If you don't have poker chips.
100 pennies = 1.00
100 nickels = 5.00
100 dimes = 10.00
100 extra paper clips 1.50
$17.50 to replace the poker chips, you only have to actually spend $1.50 of it, and you spent that anyway to get the 3 paper clips per player.
final game cost $9.00, still pretty cheap