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Subject: Great game, dumb theme rss

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I will not rest until Biblios is in the Top 100. - Steve Oksienik
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Howell
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Well I been watchin' while you been coughin, I've been drinking life while you've been nauseous, and so I drink to health while you kill yourself and I got just one thing that I can offer... Go on and save yourself and take it out on me
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Reiner Knizia has produced tons and tons of fabulous games. While he has produced some classics such as Tigris and Euphrates and Taj Mahal, he's also produced some bombs such as Mmmmm.....Brains and most recently Penguins. But somewhere between the gold and the garbage lies a huge percentage of Knizia games that are solid, but not quite good enough to rise above the rest. Relationship Tightrope falls into that category for a lot of reasons.


Rules

Relationship Tightrope is a trick-taking game at its heart. Each trick will award a certain number of balance sticks to the player who has the highest card and the player who has the lowest card.

To start the game, shuffle up the 50 card deck and deal out 9 cards to each player. The cards will have a value on them ranging from 1 to 50.



Then one of the Value cards is flipped which denotes how many points the trick is worth.



Starting with the first player, players take turns playing 1 card from their hand. After all cards have been played, the highest card takes blue Balance sticks equal to the Value card while the lowest card takes pink Balance sticks.



Sometimes an Instant Foregiveness card will come up in the Value stack. When this happens, either Blue or Pink will not be scored during that trick.

Anytime, you have Blue and Pink sticks at the same time, remove them in pairs until you have only Blue or Pink left. For example, if you have 4 Blue sticks and you get 6 Pink on the next trick, remove one Blue and one Pink together until you have only one color left. This example would leave you with 2 Pink.

After all 9 cards are played, the round is over. Players' scores are recorded for 3 rounds with the winner being the player with the lowest score.

As an added bonus, any time a player scores 0 for a round, they may also change one of their other rounds to 0. Since the goal of the game is to score as low as possible, this is a big help when a player has a terrible round.


Components

Relationship Tightrope comes in a pretty little box. Many gamers don't like odd shaped small boxes, but I think this one is perfect for the contents. The plastic insert is deep enough to hold all the cards and the Balance sticks.



The rulebook is perfect, clocking in at just a few small pages. The print is perfectly sized and there are plenty of examples to help avoid confusion. The font is large and bold and makes for very easing reading.

The Balance sticks are exactly the same sticks as are used in On the Underground and TransEurope/America. These are pretty standard little wood sticks that remind me of Potato Sticks. (A delicious little snack food)

Most importantly, Relationship Tightrope is a card game. Therefore the cards are all we should really worry about. Nothing else is nearly as important in a card game as the cards themselves. Relationship Tightrope features adequate cards. They are smaller than normal playing cards but have the same style coating. The stock is also slightly thinner. I've played this game about 8 times and the cards are starting to show some wear. I don't have faith that they'll last long but thanks to Tanga there's plenty of copies to be had. And worst case scenario, it would be easy to make a homemade set once my cards wear out. The unusual size makes them unsleevable.

Artistically, the game is presented in a light humorous fashion. The Value cards feature one half with feminine artwork and the other masculine. The art is cute and cartoony which helps keep the game light and fun.


Gameplay

Relationship Tightrope is a fast playing game. Even with 5 players, a full 3-round game shouldn't take more than 20 minutes making it a great filler. Additionally, you can play the game as many rounds as you want either shortening or lengthening the playing time.

A player's turn is pretty simple. You need to play a card, but you need to try and figure out what other players have based on previous tricks. Its almost like you need to play the players more than the game.

One of the best things about Relationship Tightrope is that it comes with a couple of variants that I believe are necessary to making the game good. The first variant is a blind-bid variant in which all players play a card at the same time. This really requires playing the players based on what's in your hand. If you know you have the low trump, you will know exactly when to play it. The same goes for the high trump. Also, you may want to try to stay in the middle so you don't get sticks of either color. The second variant is to only play with enough cards for all the players. For example, in a 4 player game, you would only play with cards 1-36 with 9 going to each player. This reduces a lot of the luck factor because you know which number are in the game and you know when you have trump. If you use all 50 cards, its anyones guess as to what cards are available so there's a lot more luck involved. I personally believe its best to play with both variants at once, creating a blind-bid with exact information. It makes you rely on outthinking your opponents as opposed to getting lucky. Luck will always play a factor in any game with a deck of cards, but the second variant eliminates a lot of that luck and turns a simple card game into a much deeper affair.

Another great note about gameplay is that each round gives you 2 distinct options. Either you can try to balance your sticks by constantly winning high and low tricks, or you can try to stay neutral and not win any trick high or low. You really have to know how the people at your table are going to play to make the second choice work. If you know that someone desperatley needs pink, you can go with a middle number to stay above them.

One of my favorite aspects is the 0 scoring mechanism. If a player scores 0 in any round, they may also wipe out a score in a previous round. This is a great way to keep players in the game since one bad round doesn't necessarily knock you out. Scoring 0 is really tough to do so its good that the game rewards such excellent play. Players may find that to be too generous, but I feel that is really well deserved. I've had more than one game where a high score like 18 got wiped out by good play and the player went on to win the game. But most games end up close anyway.


Theme

Theme in games is very important to some gamers. Personally, I don't really care as long as the game is good. Relationship Tightrope is the kind of game that probably gets dismissed just because of its theme. The general idea is that players need to balance the masculine and feminine sides of their relationship which is represented by sticks. The closer you are to even, the happier and healthier your relationship will be. The them works although its a really strange idea for a game. The original theme was just about acrobats on the highwire trying to keep their balance and not fall off. Honestly, I feel like the relationship theme is way more original if not slightly weird.


Compare it to...

I don't really have any experience with games like Relationship Tightrope. But its a pretty simple trick-taking game so there are probably plenty of games out there that work the same way. The scoring mechanism may be fairly unique, but there's probably something like it out there.


Overall

Relationship Tightrope is a great light filler game that plays just as well with 3 as it does with 4 or 5. The playtime is just right which makes this a prime candidate to get played a couple times in a row. Fans of trick-taking games should take notice of this overlooked gem and look past its odd theme.

You can feel free to break out Relationship Tightrope as a gateway game as well. The light theme and simple rules make this an easy game to teach and a wonderful introduction to the gaming world. The theme actually makes the game approachable to non-gamers and especially to women who may otherwise feel that games are only for nerdy boys.

I wholly enjoy Relationship Tightrope. While its not a game I'll often request to pay, I don't see a time that I'd ever turn it down. There's some great opportunities to outhink your opponents and lots of fun to be had in the process. I rate the game a 7.3/10. Its not quite good enough for 7.5 but its much better than a standard 7. Since this game can be had for such cheap prices, there's no reason not to have this diamond-in-the-rough in your gaming collection.
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Rob McFadden
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Cherry Hill
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stormseeker75 wrote:

Compare it to...

I don't really have any experience with games like Relationship Tightrope. But its a pretty simple trick-taking game so there are probably plenty of games out there that work the same way. The scoring mechanism may be fairly unique, but there's probably something like it out there.


I think some fair comparisons are Raj, Pick Picknic, and For Sale. However, the goal of keeping a zero balance is quite different from all of these. But to me, RT has the feel of these three, especially the second phase of a round of For Sale.
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Yoki Erdtman
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Very nice review Steve.
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Great review!

I managed to grab a cheap copy of this the other day (I assume the theme puts off fellow geek eBay bidders ) We've only played it once so far (with 5 of us) and we all enjoyed it as a filler. Even the theme was quite entertaining because its so bad - I guess like some films that are so bad that they become good (or is that just me?).

stormseeker75 wrote:

Compare it to...

I don't really have any experience with games like Relationship Tightrope. But its a pretty simple trick-taking game so there are probably plenty of games out there that work the same way. The scoring mechanism may be fairly unique, but there's probably something like it out there.


We've played a game called Turn the tide before and it felt very similar to that with the bidding/trick taking.
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