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Subject: First impressions: more than 'Uno on steroids'! rss

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Scott Kovatch
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Pleasanton
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I first read about this game in the Essen SPIEL 2016 preview, and thought 'that looks like a good little game.' A specialized deck of cards, fast playing time, 1-2 pages of rules, and best of all, (relatively) cheap on Amazon.de! Was it worth the effort of importing? Let's find out.

Overview

The game consists of:

- 100 cards, 2 each of 1-10 in 5 colors
- 14 'aggravation' cards
- 30 'Schwupps' cards

First, shuffle and draw the top 4 Schwupps cards and lay them out in the center of the table. Then flip over the top Schwupps card and leave it face up on its deck and place it next to two of the face up Schwupps cards. That's important for reasons that will be clear in a moment.

Then, deal out a number of cards to each player (25 with 2, 20 with 3, 15 with 4, and 12 with 5) and stack them in front of them as their own personal deck. Place the remaining cards in a common deck in the center of the table. Each player then draws the top 4 cards from their personal deck for their starting hand.

Finally, turn over one card from the common deck for each of the revealed Schwupps cards as starters. You're ready to play.

The Schwupps cards dictate what cards can be played on the corresponding discard pile. More often than not, it's going to be '+1', '+2', or '-1' or '-2', but there are also 'match color', 'match number', 'match either color or number', too.

At this point you may be thinking 'this sounds like Uno', and it does have that Crazy 8's vibe, but really it's just a starting point. That's because on your turn you can play as many cards as you have in your hand, in any order that makes sense. Combo City here we come!

Usually you'll just play number cards to the piles, but then the Aggravation cards come into play, which make the game more interesting. When you play aggravation card, you get to move the top Schwupps card into play, which pushes one of the Schwupps cards one slot over, and in turn, moves the right-most cards out of the game. You then take a card from the common deck and give it to another player. How slick is that? This, by the way, is called Schwupping, which just sounds funny.

Everything's changed, and your opponents all groan, because you've just ruined their plans.... or are secretly thrilled because you just moved that +1 to the pile that can win them the game.

The last thing you can do is move the Schwupps cards without a first playing an Aggravation card, but this time you get the penalty card. You can do this at most once per turn.

Finally, you draw cards from your personal deck until you have at least 4 cards in hand. If you end a turn with more than 4 cards because other players kept piling on with Schwupping, you don't draw cards.

The game ends when one player has played all of the cards in their deck and their hand. That player wins.

What I liked

There were a few mechanics that I enjoyed. First, this is the second time I've seen the 'personal deck' in a card game, with 3 Sind Eine Zu Viel being the first. It's a good way to keep the game from bogging down with perfect information, yet making it long enough to be interesting.

Second, while having 4 discard piles in play gave me the idea of 'Uno on steroids', it also brought to mind Stichling, with its 4 different tricks going on at the same time. In this game, I think it really opens up the game, giving you the chance to nail that perfect hand-clearing combo.

Third, I really liked the rule-changing aspect of Schwupping (let alone saying that name!)

What I didn't like

It's hard to find anything to really dislike in this game. I suspect some people won't like the take-that and pile-on-the-leader use of the Aggravation cards. But it's really not out of place in a family game like this, where you can thwart your annoying sister's plans, give her a card, and stick out your tongue at the same time! I mean, what kid wouldn't want that?

You also won't find much opportunity for strategy here, either. If you play all the cards out of your hand, your turn ends and you draw more cards, and hope that by the time it gets back to you, the Schwupps cards haven't been changed.

"Well, it's too random for me, then," you might say. There is a bit of luck in the cards you get in your deck and then reacting to what others have done before you. But I don't think that's the point. When it's your turn you will have 4 cards and 5 possible plays you can make. The fun in this game is trying to puzzle out how you are going to put down as many cards as you can each turn, and deciding how to slow down your opponents who are doing the same thing.

The game plays quickly enough that the negatives shouldn't outweigh the positives, and the rules include a scoring variant designed to take the sting out of a bad hand.

Conclusion

I thought this was a lot of fun, and the other 3 folks that played with me were in agreement. It's not too long, and has just the right amount of combo-making and tactics that you don't end the game feeling like you just went through the motions.

It's a shame we don't see much of this kind of card game in the US anymore. Growing up in the 70's and 80's, I had a lot of these specialized-deck games, and you could find them just about anywhere. Amigo has been putting out a lot of these great little games over the years, and while some (No Thanks, For Sale) make it over to the US, hopefully we'll see more like this in the future.

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Alexander K
United States
Seattle
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I really enjoyed this review, and it was especially encouraging considering I have it on order from Amazon.de with a few other German goodies.

It sounds like exactly what I was hoping for, and now I am even more excited to play it.

Thanks for writing this!
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Bart R.
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I wholly agree with your review. Unlike Uno, you have at least some control and although there is a certain 'target the leader' effect, it's fairly limited. As a result, Schwupps never turns into one of those seemingly endless games like you can have with Uno.

The only remark we have is that the starting hand of 20 cards (with 4 players) seems a bit too much, but that'll probably improve as we play the game more.
 
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Scott Kovatch
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Lorthania wrote:
The only remark we have is that the starting hand of 20 cards (with 4 players) seems a bit too much, but that'll probably improve as we play the game more.

Now that I think about it, you're right... with 4 it did seem to last a bit longer than a filler. Folks were waiting around for us to finish so we could start Captain Sonar Setup and rule explanation for the first game took a bit longer than I thought.
 
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