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Subject: Preview of GemPacked Cards rss

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Steve Finn
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Disclaimer: The designer of the game (Ed Baraf), has done a number of video Kickstarter previews for my own crowd funding projects

Background
I've played this many times with my two sons, ages 7 and 9. I'm not yet sure how it will play with more serious gamers, but will edit this review after I play with different people. My review, then, is based upon the idea that this is primarily a family game, though older players can enjoy it too.

The Theme
The rulebook does not provide an explicitly stated theme, but the designer clarified to me that certain imaginary creatures ("geminos") are seeking to leave their planet and you are apparently helping them do so. In terms of gameplay, you mostly score points by collecting geminos and trading them in for more valuable geminos. You can score the most points by collecting rocket ship cards, which are essentially goal cards, and this represents launching the geminos off the planet. Personally, I don’t care too much about themes and see this more as a game about collecting gems, albeit ones with cute little faces.

Basic Game Play
This is a very simple game to play and you can teach anyone how to play in a couple minutes. I'm sure you can read another review (or watch a video on the Kickstarter page) to get a more detailed explanation of the game, so I will provide only a brief summary of it.

There is a common stock of "gemino pips," which serves as the basic currency of the game, and these come in 6 different colors (primary colors of red, blue, yellow and the secondary colors of green, purple, and orange). There is also a deck of gemino cards that contain squares and diamonds of the same colors, plus a few special action cards. The "board" consists of 9 gemino cards, arranged in 3 rows of 3. This is essentially a marketplace that has gemino squares or gemino diamonds which you buy with pips. At the start of one's turn, a player draws 2 pips. If the two colors match, you can buy a square of the same color. Also, if you have 2 different primary colors (e.g., blue and yellow), you can buy a square that results from combining those two colors (e.g., green). Once you have 2 squares, you can similarly exchange those for a diamond of the same color (if primary colors) or a secondary colored diamond. If your pips can't be used to buy anything, or you choose not to exchange them, you can draw another pip and end your turn. You'll then start your next turn with more pips to use. There are also wild pips, squares, and diamonds, which essentially can be used as any color.

You score points by buying squares and diamonds. All the squares are worth 1VP, but the diamonds are worth either 3 (for secondary colors) or 5 (for primary colors). There are also some additional cards, such as the rocket ships, that give a good number of points (from 9 to 11) for a combination of 4 specific geminos (e.g., a yellow pip, a green square, a purple diamond, and a blue diamond). There are also special "nova" cards that can be purchased by using a certain number of pips or squares. Also, you can sell squares to get pips, if you need a pip for another purpose.

Players keep taking turns drawing pips, buying various things, and sometimes selling squares to get pips to buy something more valuable. Also, some players might have been fortunate enough (or smart enough) to get a rocket ship card and score big points.

Also, at some points, the game is interrupted for fun actions if an action card is revealed (e.g., everyone draws 2 free pips).

Admittedly, I am not very good at describing games, so don’t take my rather bland description as indicative of a bland game. This is anything but bland, as I will point out.

Why I Like It
There are a number of reasons that I like this game.

1.Light and Fun. The game is a light game that plays very quickly. It contains a fair amount of luck, especially when it comes to what cards are revealed into the 3x3 board (the board is replenished at the end of a turn in which someone buys something). So, there is a lot of anticipation as players wait to see what will be revealed and, if your lucky, you can pick up something good.

2.Interesting Decisions. Although there is a lot of luck, you still have to make some interesting decisions and you can take different paths to victory. You can try to hold on to primary color pips, waiting for primary color squares, to get the more valuable primary color diamonds. Or, you can just buy a lot of things and hope your points are enough to win. Also, you can aim at getting the rocket cards or the one wild diamond, which are big pointers.

3.Push Your Luck. Related to the previous point, much of the game contains a push your luck element. Should I buy the green square now with my blue and yellow pip because I can also then use the green square to buy a green diamond? But if I do, then the blue pip cannot be used to buy the primary color square and, later, a much more valuable primary color diamond. Should I wait to get another blue or yellow pip to buy a more valuable blue or yellow square? But what if either is not available in the future?

4.Well balanced. The respective values of the different items is ultimately what gives substance to points number 2 and 3 above. Ed has done a good job of picking the right VP values for all the different items in the game, so that players are faced with interesting decisions.

5.Cute Factor. The game has a high cute factor. My kids love the artwork and really enjoy playing this game because of its cuteness.

Final Thoughts
This game is a fun game that fills the same space for me as Sushi Go. Like that game, there is a set collection aspect in which different sets give you different levels of points. So, a lot of the game is figuring out which source of VPs to go for. It is also like Sushi Go insofar as the artwork is cute, it's aimed at family play, and is a quick game with easy to understand rules. However, I like it more than Sushi Go because of its "push your luck" element.

Another minor benefit is that it is minimally educational, insofar as younger players learn that different primary colors can be combined to create other colors.

If you're looking for a filler game that can serve as a gateway game and/or family game, I strongly recommend it.

Postscript
This space is reserved for my thoughts after playing with other adults.

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Eduardo Baraf
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Thanks for the review, Steve. Your games are always an inspiration.
~Ed
 
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