Since joining BGG I'd be looking around for games that I could contribute to, games that needed reviews and not repeats of what somebody else has written. I do like multiple reviews of a game but in this case my single (probably mediocre) review will get to stand out as nobody has written anything about it.
This is my first review so please be gentle! Its also of the Spears edition of the game (UK).
I have fond memories of this game but I seem to recall not getting much play time out of it. Our family was a strictly Monopoly and card game family at the time. I think I picked it up second hand at a car boot sale (a trip to wikipedia will help those who have no idea what one of those is) maybe a charity shop but certainly not new.
The game is a simple race to the finish line having collected the most 'Red Letter Days' (another one to look up on wikipedia), this games version of victory points. The race itself takes place on a leap year calendar showing days, months and events of the year.
What do I get in the box?
1 game board (Calendar, with spaces for the game cards)
1 calendar spinner (used instead of dice, this is like a mini revolving desk calendar that reveals 2 numbers (or colours) when spun)
6 playing pieces (6 quite big wooden meeples, although at the time I wouldn't have known what a meeple was!)
36 Chance cards (the red 'good' cards, each with a condition that if met earns a reward)
36 Hazard cards (the blue 'bad' cards, each with a condition that if met earns a penalty)
12 Holiday cards
30 Lucky number cards
Red Letter day tokens
Diary of Events (a book that lists historical facts for the purple days on the board, acts as either a Chance or a Hazard)
Essentially each player must traverse the board from 1st January to 31st December trying to collect as many Red Letter Day tokens as possible. This is done by spinning the spinner, moving either number (or directly to the next colour location on the board if a colour is spun). Landing on red spaces allows you to pick up a Chance card (always good) while landing a blue space means a hazard card. Double blue spaces (blue and white border) are even worse as you'll need to discard a Red Letter day token as well as pick up a hazard card.
At the same time you'll need to manage your finances as bankruptcy means losing half your tokens and moving back to the end of the previous month!
The race aspect is important too as there are rewards for reaching December 31st before anyone else as well as passing the quarter markers (31st March, 30th June, 31st September). These rewards diminish as subsequent players pass them.
An interesting mechanic is that money can be used to buy Red Letter Day tokens on your turn (at £500 each) and you can also pay £100 to move your piece on after you have spun the spinner. This means if you land 2 spaces shy of a red square, you can pay £200 to move onto it. Your opponents can also pay to move you and will often do so if you land in proximity of a blue square (especially a double blue one!). Of course you could pay extra before them to move you beyond the danger (paid movement is only ever forwards).
At the end of each turn, after all the movement has been finished, the player can opt to take a holiday by discarding one of his holiday cards and moving forward 14 days. The player has 2 of these cards and can use them any time upto 15th November.
When one player reaches December 31st the rewards are doled out (6 Red Letter Day tokens to that player and 3 to the player currently in second place) and the game ends. The player with the most tokens wins the game!
The Chance and Hazard cards are probably most interesting thing about the game as they are entirely arbitrary and give you a chance to learn something about your fellow players.
Each chance card has a condition and a reward. For example one has a picture of a man soaking his feet in a tub of water and says "Take a Red Letter day token if you are a jogger". Only real life joggers would benefit from this card. Another says "Take a Red Letter Day token from every player who has not seen Blackpool" (another one for wikipedia methinks). In this manner you learn something about your fellow players and hopefully get some Red Letter Day tokens along the way.
Similarly each Hazard card has a condition and a penalty. Examples include "Pay £200 to the bank if you are wearing a tie" and "Move back to the 1st of the month unless you remember at least 2 other players' birthdays."
Finally the purple days require a check in the Diary of Events and can both be good or bad. For example May 1st says "Mayday. Employees, teachers and students take a CHANCE. Employers, self-employed and housewives a HAZARD"
What I like about it
The art style - Its very reminiscent of a comic book and of children's books I've read. Each coloured space on the board has its own artwork that is appropriate for the space (i.e December 31st has popping champagne corks, and October 31st has a flying witch on her broomstick). Each chance and hazard card has its own artwork appropriate to the conditions.
The spinner - The thing that sticks most in my mind about this game is spinning the spinner! Its great!
Personalised - Each player benefits if they or other players land of their birthday, players get protected by their own star sign when they are on that part of the board and each player has a random secret lucky number (dealt at the start) which they can benefit from if players land on it. Whether the conditions on each card are met will be different depending on players. All this means that each time you play with different people you get a slightly different game. Also because of the probing nature you often get to learn something about your fellow players (which I like!)
What I don't like about it
Familiarity - If I play this with people I know (i.e. my wife) there's very little that I don't already know about them so the enjoyable aspects above vanish!
Very random/luck based - I don't mind this so much but people who want a game of skill should steer well clear, there is no skill whatsoever (unless you count trying to remember things about your fellow players a skill!)
Needs lots of players - a 2 player game was over in about 20 minutes with not very many thrills to be had. Would be better with a larger group ideally a mixture of family and friends to get the different conditions working.
I think this would be a great game to play with your family and some friends. Your kids would probably get a kick from knowing that you once sang on stage (another one of the Chance conditions) or some of the other conditions that pop up. That said it would only keep its appeal if you played it infrequently. I think multiple plays (and for me that means more than 2) would suck all the joy out, especially if you were playing with the same group.
To answer my original question I think its like any real year, it has its ups and downs. The highlights are great but some of the lowlights really drag it down. For that reason I'm going to give it a 5.
Nice review. It brought back some fond memories - Thank you :)
Need help!! My family experienced a flood (many floods actually)& we lost the lid, board and rules to this game due to water saturation and the plastic insert that holds everything is slightly damaged. All else was salvages. We don't want to throw it out. We thought about keeping the cards and other playing pieces to create our own game (the cards are really funny and cool to play with) BUT, our preference is to replace the damaged items if possible.
Any suggestions anyone? I could hope for a donation but that isn't likely or do an E-Bay search and if purchased will have supplemental pieces to add to it or contact the company and request replacement parts but I don't have the contact information (unless someone helps me out with that).
PLEASE HELP with what you can.
The Boardrat Family
Hi, and thank you for this detailed review. It helps me understand the game better, as unfortunately I have no instructions, and am looking all over the internet for some. I bought the game recently for my son. He's looking forward to playing it, so I would be grateful if anyone on this site has the full instructions. Thank you very much if you do.
All the best from Caron.
Hi Caron, I have a copy of the rules of this game in Microsoft Word format. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a the file.