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Subject: Setback: A miracle- the whole gang liked it! rss

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dstein766 Stein
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This is my first BGG review. Not that I'm retired I have a bit more time to do things like this!

Introduction
I backed the base game on Kickstarter. This means I passed up on the opportunity for several component upgrades and an expansion set of cards. I did this intentionally as I didn't really feel the need for metal tokens or linen cards, and the USD $12 was a perfect price for what looked to be a very clean, simple game.

I'm reasonably new to backing things on KS. The Setback campaign was, to my mind, the model for a KS campaign. I pledged in early April and had the finished game in my hands about 5 weeks later. During that period of time Toyburg sent out 6 email updates, so not only was the fulfillment extremely fast but the communications from them was first-rate. I'd have no qualms about backing another campaign of theirs. NOTE: since I didn't back any of the stretch goals I can't speak for the speed of fulfillment for those getting more "stuff" than me.

Components
The game comes in an extra-long card box which is slightly taller than a standard box of playing cards.

The deck of cards was quite stiff for the first game, but loosened up by our second game, making it much easier to shuffle. The "feel" of the cards is good. Since these aren't the fancy linen finish cards I guess there's reason to be concerned about scuffing. Don't have any opinion on this based on two plays. The printing of the cards is very good - each card is well-explained with concise text, and the iconography is sensible and consistently used.

The player tokens are solid plastic pieces in 6 different colors that are in a small ziploc baggie that sit above the card deck when in the case. The tokens are on the small side and those with large fingers may find them a bit insubstantial, but the quality is good.

The game rules are on a single small double-sided sheet that is folded in half and then again lengthwise to fit into the box. When opened the sheet is (I'm eyeballing it here) about 4" x 7.5". We found the rules to be well-written. During our first game, the few times we had to consult the rules for clarification we found our answers to be clearly spelled out. The font for the rules is quite small - looks like it might be in the neighborhood of 6 point type. However, the typeface used is pretty clean.

I read out the rules to everyone and we were playing our first game in about 10 minutes.

Gameplay
While the game says "10-30 minutes", the dynamics of our group are such that we always double the time estimates. About 50% of the additional time is due to our planning/thinking, and the other 50% due to just socializing. We played two rounds with 6 players and each round did take us about an hour apiece. If we'd cut out all the chatter we'd have taken about 45 minutes for each game. (But why would you do that? )

There's a nice variety of card types that allow you to move yourself, your opponents, or everyone. Sometimes you can move forward, other times backward. It can be a bit frustrating to be sitting on Start with only cards that move your opponents, but the game does provide you with ways to play multiple cards in a turn, which means you can generally cycle new cards into your hand pretty rapidly. A "bad hand" won't cripple you for several turns in a row. The card draw mechanism guarantees that you'll always draw AT LEAST one new card each round.

We were a bit surprised at how long it took us to all clear the Start space, and further how long it took for everyone to clear the first two rows of each lane. (When all players have passed each of the first two rows those cards are removed, shortening the game board. Anyone who gets sent back to Start later in the game won't have so far to go to catch up.) I think we all expected there to be a faster sprint to Finish than what actually happened. However, this turns out to be a GOOD thing. While some deals may result in a clear "fast track" to Finish, in our two games it was actually pretty challenging to win, and neither game ended so quickly to leave us feeling cheated. With the random board setup each game I imagine that sometimes a quick win will be achieved - particularly in smaller player counts (I'm guessing).

We didn't notice any particular inbalance caused by card distribution. In particular, I did note that there's not an over-abundance of Skip cards. While turn skipping did come into play, no player experienced one of those awful games where it seemed like every time around the board you missed out on your turn.

The game moves reasonably quickly. The ever-changing placement of pawns keeps players engaged, as does the desire to "encourage" the active player to do something to mess up your opponents while leaving you alone!

The game seems to be more luck-based than strategy-based. (After only two plays we may not yet have developed a full appreciation of all the strategy. However, even if there's deeper strategy available there's no denying that luck plays a non-trivial role.) At least in a 6-player game, your board position is extremely likely to change between your turns, making long-range planning unlikely to work out. Strategic choices are still present - they just tend to be of shorter time horizon. For example, when to use your hand-based Block cards seemed to offer the most opportunity for strategic thinking, and considering the order in which to move foes - where you can potentially initiate multiple Bumps - also requires some thinking.

Final Thoughts
Whenever I bring a new game to the table with my group, any game that takes 60+ minutes to play is less likely to get an immediate replay, no matter how well liked it was. Usually at least 1 person will want to move to something else. Setback is the first 60+ minute game in a long time that everyone at the table wanted to IMMEDIATELY replay...and the only reason we didn't play it a 3rd time is that we had to finish making dinner. It was JUST A LOT OF FUN! I can gladly recommend this game to others.

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