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Missing old BGG
The box cover says this game is pronounced "odd" and it is indeed a bit quirky, but it's not even fun. Not even good. Not even a good time waster. It has a huge Ick Factor, like playing D&D when you had a chance to be on a date or playing Doom for 11 hours straight. You just feel dirty and sorry for yourself after having played. That's Od in a nutshell. I really can't understand why Avalon Hill published this thing.
Od is a card game for 2 to 4 players, though it seems to be a 4-player game in partnerships. The partnerships play together to accumulate points in each of four suits and each player scores the team points individually, partnerships change, and another game is played. At the end of an evening (the rules mention one or two hours of this torture), high individual score wins.
There is no theme, but the rules attempt to paste one on about "OD" being some sort of balancing force in the elemental plane or some such nonsense. You're striving for perfect balance. Well, they could have picked a worse theme--like toilet paper cleaning--but it would have been difficult.The blurb mentions the theme
Other than rules and a box, the only components are a deck of cards and two dice. The deck of cards is possibly the very worst quality cards I've ever encountered. They're poorly cut out of a sheet of, maybe, 60 weight cardstock. Maybe. They're not well cut, there is a lot of paper whisker shavings, and they're just difficult to work with. When the whole game is nothing but cards, you'd think a company--particularly Avalon Hill--would know better.
Now I didn't check the price guide in the box, but most of these little box games from AH cost $8 back in the mid-1980s (this game is from 1985). That would be about $14.50 in today's currency. That's not much, but it sure merits better than paper cardstock.
Anyway, the deck of cards consists of Scoring Cards numbered 2 through 10, one of each in each suit [the suits have silly names like Cyan, Silver, etc, but they're really Blue, Yellow, Grey, and Red]; Court Cards which should be called thieves or plunder cards, four in each suit with a power rating of 6, 8, 10, and 12; one Thief card which isn't a thief so much as a scout; and one Assassin card which is used to kill a Court card or another Assassin card. That's 54 cards total.
Deal cards to each player (5 cards for 4-player partnership, 7 for 2-player head-to-head). Then turn one card face up to start the discard pile and set the draw pile next to the discard pile (see end of review for the stupidity of this rule).
In typical Avalon Hill fashion, they take quite a lot of pages to tell you simple rules and then leave out some important ones. Or, at least I assume they left out some rules, as the game as written wouldn't pass muster with a playtest group.
Players (or partnerships) take turns playing a card and drawing a card. A standard hand size is maintained, always replensihing at the end of a turn. A player may play only one card and there are three options:
A game in progress
1) Play a Scoring Card in front of you on the table, must like melding in Rummy. There's no importance to whether you lay the card at the end of your line of that suit or keep your suit laid out nice and orderly from lowest to highest card. You just keep four lines (one for each color) face up in front of you. These are the cards that give you points when the deck mercifully runs out.
2) Play a Thief card. The thief goes on the discard pile and you look at the top draw card. If you like it, keep it. Otherwise, snatch a card, sight-unseen from the player to your left and give them the card you drew and didn't like--it's theirs now. If you like that player's card, keep it. If not, continue this process with the next player round the table. If you're impossible to please, you have to keep the card you plucked from the player to your right. This is the only version of "just get rid of a card" that you have in this game.
3) Play a Court card. This is the combat element of this game. You play a "face card" of a particular suit and power (6, 8, 10, or 12). Then you roll the two dice. If you roll higher than the power of the card, you're done and you put your Court card back in your hand. If you roll lower than any single card your opponent holds in that suit (the suit of the Court card), you went bust and your turn is over and the Court card goes to the discard pile. If you rolled between the opponent's lowest card of the suit and the power of your Court card (inclusive), you get to move card(s) from the opponent tallying up to your dice roll and place them in your line of scoring cards for that suit. And you keep your Court card.
Example: The blue "12" Court card wants to steal from the opponent (who has 4, 9, and 10 blue scoring cards showing). He rolls a 3 and therefore failed miserably, being sent to the discard pile. The attacking player gets a new card from the Draw pile for his efforts. Had the roll been between 4 and 12, the attacking player would have transferred scoring cards to his side of the table and placed his Court card back into his hand.
The only "gotcha" is that when someone plays a Court card, someone else (not your partner) can play any assassin to kill the Court card before any dice rolls. Then an assassin can kill an assassin if you like. If the original assassin is of the same suit as the Court card, it's an automatic kill (can't be undone by another Assassin) because it's an inside job. When assassins come into play, all players who threw cards get to replenish their hands.
That's it. When the last card is drawn from the Draw pile, the game ends immediately and you calculate the score.
There are three variants for scoring:
1) Tally up total points in each suit and add 'em up. Any suit summing to over 20 points (40 in 2-player game) counts as only 20 (or 40) points.
2) Tally points in each suit and take the suit with the smallest total and multiply by 4 and that's your score (the pre-Knizia Knizia).
3) Because this is a game of balance, the super mathematical version (Avalon Hill cautions you that this is more math intensive) is to tally your points in each column and if you exceed 20 points (40 in 2-player), you lose a point for each point beyond the limit. In other words, your perfect score would be four times the 20 (or 40) point limit.
We quickly realized that you play what is in your hand. If you have scoring cards, get 'em down on the board, because that's really all you can do. If you have face cards, use them to steal your opponent's cards as long as you can roll the proper number on the dice. If you have an assassin, just wait until you can use it. And if you have a thief and nothing decent to play, take your chances getting a better card. Not much strategy here.
Worse yet, you can easily get into a nasty locked position. My wife appeared to be leading the point race but got into a position where all her cards were face cards. All she could do was attempt to transfer points from me to her. But these cards were in suits she had already maxed out at 40+ points. So she would play a face card hoping to roll lower than my smallest visible scoring card. That way, she could get rid of the card, deplete the Draw pile, and maybe get some useful cards. But no luck. I had low cards to burn.
So then I got into a situation where I had the "12" face card of yellow and she had a "2" Yellow visible on the table. That's an immunity roll for me, as long as she had no assassins (and we had used them all by this point, with only about 6 cards left in the Draw pile). So I just kept putting down my "12" (can't roll higher than that), rolling, and taking anything but her "2" card, based upon my roll.
Finally, she successfully killed off one of her face cards and got to draw the next-to-last card from the Draw pile. I stole another card. Then she played the card she just draw--a Thief, which ended the game as soon as she picked up the last draw card.
After 24 minutes, it was blessedly over. For the record, I scored 7, 29, 33, and 21 (total of 90) to her 38, 23, 18, and 23 (total of 102). So she still won, but it seemed more an exercise of draw and discard and then seeing who wins, rather than much strategy.
The Fatal Flaws
I've already mentioned the main flaw--that the game locks up and has no mechanism for simply chucking a card onto the discard pile. The only thing you can discard are Thief cards, botched Court cards (rolling too low), killed Court cards (from assassinations), and Assassin cards.
Which leads to another problem. Since you can't discard a Scoring card, in all likelihood, most if not all scoring cards from each suit will be played to the table. That's a total of 54 points for each suit (2+3+4+...+10). So, in a 4-player partnership game, a 20 point "balancing point" limit for scoring seems proper. Why on earth did Avalon Hill double that number to 40 when playing two-player? In partnership and in two-player, you're still only melding two sets (one for each team). The total points per team/player haven't changed at all, yet the limit is doubled, making it pretty safe that you'll never exceed the 40 point limit. I don't think they ever playtested this as a two-player game.
And what's up with the discard pile? If you start a discard pile at the beginning of the game, like in Rummy, you ought to use it. I could see allowing people to take their card from the uppermost discarded card (like in Rummy). The rules go to great pains to mention the order of placing killed Court cards and Assassin cards onto the discard pile. But without a rule to draw from that stack, why even mention it? I feel that they intended to allow it but just never typed it into the rules.
And one final point... some people seem to think that the names on the cards (each Court card has a name, like "Princess" or "Queen") are impressive because they can be read both right-side-up and upside-down. Look back at that attack image above and see if you can tell that the card is named "LORD"? I thought it was just Japanese characters.
Horrid, horrid little game.
- Last edited Fri Oct 5, 2007 6:42 pm (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Thu Oct 4, 2007 6:37 pm
Was George Orwell an Optimist?
Abdullah Ibrahim - Water from an Ancient Well
It's been years since I played it, but I don't remember it as being nearly as bad as you suggest. I'll have to pull it out one of these days and give it a test drive.
The rules go to great pains to mention the order of placing killed Court cards and Assassin cards onto the discard pile. But without a rule to draw from that stack, why even mention it? I feel that they intended to allow it but just never typed it into the rules.
Heh, that is odd indeed. I'm amused by rules that are anal retentive about things that just don't matter. Like telling you "the discard pile must be placed 3 inches to the right of the draw pile" or whatever.
I played it a few times with the game designer and enjoyed it, although that was so long ago I really don't remember it. The art work on the cards by Jeff Lee is excellent!
Not merely "horrid", but doubly "horrid"!? I'm surprised our little game aroused such rancor and provided such poor diversion. That was surely not our intent. I concede that some of Mr. Cox's criticisms are with foundation. The card quality is poor. Why did A-H not provide standard plasticized cards? My guess is that the printing of A-H games was a revenue stream for Eric Dott's main business interest, Monarch Printing Services. I've never seen any A-H game with quality card stock and presume the Monarch did not have that printing capability.
David and I bear the responsibility for the metaphysical tacked-on theme. It is admittedly bogus and certainly not to be taken seriously. Likewise, I see no harm in designating the suit colors in words which utilize the richness of the English language. I'd much prefer a choice of a thousand shades of paint versus an inventory of ten.
I am one of those people who think it is clever that some words can be mangled to read the same from either direction. I offer no apology for that. I do apologize if my execution fell short. But, believe me, some of the calligraphic quality was lost when the images were reduced to 5% of original size. I should have anticipated that. The original cards we manufactured ourselves for play-testing were larger than the A-H cards. They were more the size of tarot cards. In fact David fashioned the original gameplay using a tarot deck.
So, another difference from the A-H version was many more Thief cards. You could also use a Thief card to take the top card on the discard pile. Furthermore, if you accumulated 5 Thief cards, not so difficult to do with the expanded deck, you had two options on your turn. You could trade the 5 thieves for the top 5 draws or discards. Or, you could steal an opponent's entire hand. They would then take 5 new cards from the draw pile. We replenished the draw pile from the discard pile (so, the torture never ended, Mr. Cox, because, in addition, a side had to make a certain point total, 15 or 20 points, in each suit to win). But, on their turn, the player could also discard from his hand and replenish from the draw pile. At least, that's my recollection. It's been over 30 years and we played variants. Anyway the Thieves, Assassins, dead Courtiers and low numbered cards kept recycling until the exciting climax (or tedious conclusion.)
Another decision of A-H's which ticked us off was that A-H cheaply used their standard six-sided dice. We used polyhedrons to precisely match the court card values: 6, 8, 10, 12. I can't at this late date remember if it made any difference, but it seemed more elegant at the time.
Why did Avalon-Hill publish OD? Beats me. It wasn't their usual fare. They certainly gave us little respect during the process. Eric Dott was pissed off at David because of an earlier game deal which fell apart. I happened to be in DC during the development process and made an appointment to visit. Dott was very brusque and pretty much blew me off. I had lunch with Rex Martin, the in-house liaison and he was polite, but there was little interaction once the initial deal was made. They changed what suited them and perhaps improved the game, or not. It's sometimes hard to objective about your own work. We were just a bunch of game-crazy young dudes playing RPGs, miniatures, cards and wargames. Still are, but not so young.
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Missing old BGG
Don't know why I'm just now responding to this post, Jeff, but thanks for the input. It sounds like y'all had a much better game that AH should have just cleaned up (e.g. reducing game length by not reshuffling the discards when the draw pile runs out). But my guess is that they wanted to turn your deck into a standard 52 or 60 card deck and really mucked it up.
The game as you describe (minus the longer play time) sounds far better than what they published. I have difficulty understanding why a company that usually developed games quite well would have butchered your game so.