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Subject: Squirrel Rush - A Detailed Review rss

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Dr. Dam
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Image Courtesy of xant_valley

This review continues my series of detailed reviews that attempt to be part review, part resource for anyone not totally familiar with the game. For this reason I expect readers to skip to the sections that are of most interest.

If you liked the review please thumb the top of the article so others have a better chance of seeing it and I know you stopped by. Thanks for reading.

Summary

Game Type – Family\Abstract Tile Game
Play Time: 15-30 minutes
Number of Players: 2-6
Mechanics – Grid Movement, hand Management, Tile Placement
Difficulty – Pick-up & Play (Can be learned in 20 minutes)
Components – Very Good
Release – 2016

Designer – Krzysztof Matusik - (Chameleon Time)

Overview and Theme

Squirrels are an active bunch, but you are one of the naughty batch. You've spent the Autumn playing games and mucking about and somehow it is almost Winter! Six hours is all you have to fossik about and gather enough reserves for the lean times ahead. Thankfully the winds have dropped many an acorn overnight and they lay strewn about the leaf litter on the forest floor. It's action time, can you collect the greatest nut reserve in the hours that remain?

Squirrel Rush comes to us from a small publisher in Tailor Games from Poland which is owned by the designer. It's an abstract design, coupled with the a tile and action mechanism but it doesn't really feel like a true abstract in truth. Due to the theme and paired back rules of play, this really feels like a family game.

Come out with me on a limb as we look to see what this forest dweller has to offer. whistle

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The Components

Squirrel Rush is a self-published title and a very good one at that.

d10-1 Tiles – The tiles feature a number of acorns on a bed of forest green, which represents the forest floor. Really it is the number of acorns that the players will focus on.

Each tile also has a number in white and this represents the number of acorns on the other side of the tile. Because tiles will be flipped in the game, this information is important. It also helps add to the theme just a little as well, because nuts can be found in and under the leaf litter of the forest.

If I am to be critical I could state that the tiles are a little thinner than I would like. But being a self-published title\small Publisher I think they've done a pretty good job here on the cardboard quality and artwork.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


d10-2 Action Cards – The cards feature nice visuals that depict the game's grid and arrow icons make it pretty clear what the effect of each card is meant to be. If it is not obvious initially, then text is provided to spell it out in the rule book. We certainly used the text in our first game but after that the icons make it rather obvious...so thumbs up for the iconography.

That text is also used to add to the theme ever so subtley, explaining the going's on in the forest.

Each action card features a really nice image of Squirrels doing their thing in the forest above that iconography I outlined above. It really adds to the theme of the game and makes the cards really nice to look at. Some fancy card edge art in a given colour is also present. This is used to create the sets of 7 Player Cards if the advanced form of the game is in play.


Image Courtesy of xant_valley


d10-3 Squirrel Meeple – The Squirrel Meeple or Tokens are really nice wooden affairs in vibrant colours. Tailor Games probably could have left it at that and I would have been happy, but they went the extra mile to include stickers to adorn both sides to add that little bit more character to the game, allowing for different coloured squirrels. It's a nice touch.


Image Courtesy of matoozik


d10-4 Nuts Tokens + Tiles – The game then comes with tokens to represent nuts of 1, 5 and 10 denominations, which are of course used for scoring. They even give these three values names in Acorns, Hazelnuts and Chestnuts and they feature different artwork too, which is a small detail but one I appreciate.

If a player collects a lot of nuts they can cash in their smaller tokens for larger square tiles that depict a score of 30 on one side and 60 on the other.

These tokens are also a little thinner than I would like and in getting them off the tile sheets, I had a bit of tearing occur on a couple. It was nothing major and I was able to remove the excess fairly easily, but it was noticeable. Again I am happy to overlook this given the size of the company.


Image Courtesy of matoozik


d10-5 Daytime Cards – These seem a bit superfluous but they do serve a purpose I guess (see set-up). These cards are simply a chance to produce some nice artwork depicting the morning through to dusk. Each one is numbered from 1-6 and they serve as a round counter to let the players see how close they are to the end of the game.

The artwork is very nice and calming.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


d10-6 Rules – The rules come in a nice landscaped booklet format that uses a lovely high gloss finish. Colour images adorn the pages and the rules are quite easy to follow.

If I had to gripe I would say that the text required better spacing at times and the Action Card summaries were a bit vague in spots and required us to really think about one or two of the cards carefully due to the nature of the wording. I put this down to translation issues as the Publisher and Designer are Polish.

It's nothing major but it is there. Otherwise the rules do the job.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


There are a few rough edges here and there in regards to the production but overall I think Tailor Games have done a great job in producing Squirrel Rush.


Image Courtesy of matoozik


Set-Up

Squirrel Rush can be set up in a matter of minutes. First the Glade (grid) needs to be created. This requires shuffling up the tiles and setting out a series of tiles to create a 4 x 4 (16 tile) grid. These tiles should be face up. If playing with 5-6 players then a 5 x 4 (5 wide by 4 high) grid should be created.

The rest of the tiles are placed in a stack (again all light green side up) off to the side. Three tiles are then taken from the top of the stack and set out as the next ones to be taken if a certain Action Card is played.

Each player takes a Squirrel in their chosen colour and the Nut Tokens are set aside.

A random start player is determined and they are given the Day Stack, which is sequentially ordered with the 1 card on top.

If playing the standard game, all of the Action Cards are shuffled together to form a deck. If playing with the Smarty Squirrel Advanced Rules (outlined towards the end of this review), each player receives their own deck of Action Cards (of matching colour). Each player will receive 7 cards in all and each player has the same cards as one another.

The game is ready to begin.

The Play

Image Courtesy of xant_valley


Squirrel Rush is a game of finding the optimal move an your turn, in order to collect as many nuts as possible and add them to your reserves. The players take turns in clockwise fashion to move around the Glade and all players receive 6 turns in order to do their best. Here is a summary of the play.

The game features a standard and advanced rule-set. The following summary outlines the standard game play and I then cover the advanced rules in point seven below.

d10-1 The Standard Movement Rules – Squirrels can only move from one tile to an adjacent tile in orthogonal fashion, that is, they cannot move diagonally.

In order to collect nuts, a Squirrel must move onto a tile to collect the nuts that feature on it (thus they don't collect the nuts on a tile when they are leaving it). They are then allowed to move onto an adjacent tile if that tile features less nuts than the one they are currently on. Thus a player is really trying to move to the highest valued tile possible (in their first move) and then find a path of tiles that feature a sequence of fewer nuts.

For example if a player moves from a 4-tile to a 2-tile to a 1-tile, they would collect 7 nuts for that turn (4 + 2 + 1 = 7).

A Squirrel cannot move to an adjacent tile that features an equal number of nuts (as the one they are on), therefore if a player moves to a 1-nut tile...their turn must end there.

Any number of Squirrels can occupy the same tile and there are no blocking moves of any kind.

d10-2 Flipping Tiles – At the end of a players turn, they must flip all tiles that they moved over. This means that the tile they start their turn on and the tile that they end their turn on will not be flipped. The flipping rule is really important because it changes the nature of the Glade and of course presents opportunities and challenges to the players that follow. This lends the game much of its strategy.

In truth I have summed 70% of the game. But there are a few more elements to still nut out... shake

d10-3 The Opening Round – In the first turn the players need to enter the Glade (grid) with their Squirrels. To do this they can move onto any of the tiles around the outer edge and then follow the movement rules as outlined above.

Once a Squirrel is in the Glade, they will remain there unless a certain Action Card is played (more on that shortly).

d10-4 Rounds 2-6 – Starting from round two, the players don't simply move from one tile to another as outlined above. Instead a player's turn begins by drawing the top card of the Action Card deck. The card drawn is revealed and the player has the option to use the action that is listed on the card or they can discard it and move in the usual way. It is important to note that the tile upon which a Squirrel ended their last turn has no bearing on the first tile they choose to move to for a new turn.

In all their are 7 different types of cards. It is useful to look at them quickly to better appreciate the options that are available.


mb Move Diagonally - The usual movement rules apply but one diagonal move is allowed at any point in the turn.


mb Flip a Tile - Allows a tile to be flipped anywhere in the Glade. Most often players will look to flip a tile that helps them collect more nuts but there is no reason why a player cannot flip a tile in order to limit the next move of an opponent.


mb Exit the Glade -

Image Courtesy of Clawf1ng3r
Allows a player to remove their Squirrel from the grid and then take their turn as per the first turn of the game, entering the Glade from any outer edge tile.


mb Exchange a Tile - Allows a player to take one of the 3 available tiles and replace a tile in the Glade with it. The tile that was replaced is returned to the bottom of the tile deck and the top tile of the deck is added to the two remaining tiles to restore future options to 3 tiles.

The tile that is added to the Glade can be placed with its light or dark green side facing up, whichever best suits the active player.


mb Collect from the Least - This essentially reverses the normal movement rules. Now a player is allowed to move to adjacent tiles provided that each tile in sequential order features more nuts than the one they have just been on (not including the starting position).


mb Add an Acorn - Allows a player to add a 1-value token to any tile (even if this makes a 5-nut tile worth 6). This effectively makes the tile worth +1 nut over its listed value.

If a Squirrel moves to a tile with an Acorn token, they collect in in addition to the tokens offered up by the tile in the usual way.


mb Skip a Tile - The standard movement and collection rules apply but at any point in the turn, the player can skip a tile in their path as if it were not there. This can allow a player to skip (jump) a troublesome tile and maximise their nut collecting efforts.

d10-5 Tracking Time – When the play gets back around to the start player they simply flip the current Daytime Card to mark the passage of time. When the 6th Daytime Card is revealed it signifies that the game will end when the last player has taken their turn.

d10-6 Scoring – At the end of the last player's turn the obvious thing to do is to tally up each player's tokens to see who has the greatest reserves and takes the win. During the play or at this stage the players can exchange tokens for a 30-nut tile or flip a 30-tile to its 60 side just to make things easier.

Of course some players may like to keep all their tokens rather than cash them in, as a way to make it harder to work out how well they are doing. There is no tie-breaker and a win can be shared.

d10-7 The Smarty Squirrel Variant - This can be considered something of an advanced play variant. The key difference is that the players no longer draw Action Cards at random. Instead each player starts the game with the same set of 7 Action Cards and on each turn they can choose to use any one of their available cards. Of course once a card is used it is no longer available and they have 1 less option at their disposal.

You may have already picked up that in a 6-turn game, each player will not have the time to use one of their cards.

This version makes the game far more tactical and really it makes the game feel more like an abstract design as the players have the same options open to them and it making the optimal move is more vital than ever.

Normally I would say this (the variant) is the only way to play the game, but with Squirrel Rush that isn't the case. Whilst I do feel that the original format can be quite luck dependent, I think that can be a real plus for families that may be playing with younger gamers. The luck factor in drawing a random Action Card can help level the playing field and that is always a good thing when playing with young gamers that are still learning about strategy and manipulating rules to gain the best outcome.

If you are playing with adults and\or capable gamers then the base game can really screw a player through sheer bad luck (drawing an Action Card that doesn't best suit your position) and that kind of sucks. For these gamers the advanced variant is really the best way to play and that is the only option I would consider in the future.

The Final Word

Image Courtesy of Zmiotek


Squirrel Rush is a nice little title that doesn't quite go short enough to be classed as a filler and I think it is at its best with at least 3-4 players as it makes the changing nature of the Glade a little more dynamic.

It is a light game to be sure and a worthy consideration for families and playing with younger gamers. For older gamers though, I'm not so sure that this is a compelling title that you have to have in your collection. There are some cracking Abstract Games on the market at the moment and whilst the players do have some control over what they do on a turn, the game is really posing the challenge of doing the best you can with what you are left with. For this reason the strategy of the game is really to be found in how you manipulate the game on your turn, how you leave the Glade for others and how you position yourself ready for your next turn.

When all is said and done, I can call the game interesting but I don't know if the adjectives 'super fun' or 'intriguing' are the ones that spring to mind. For me this is a 'nice to try' but not something I need to return to any time soon.

I feel awful saying that as I appreciate self-publishers, their hard work and dedication to their designs. The reality is that I am not the target market for Squirrel Rush...however my sister is as she has an 8-9 year old daughter that is loving gaming with Ticket to Ride and Bohnanza being among her favourites. For Lilly, I think this theme and the game play on offer will be quite exciting for her so it may become hers in the future.

Till next we meet, scamper across those branches and nut-up Squirrels!!! mb

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