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Subject: Boring stinker or laugh festa? [review] rss

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Simon Lundström
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Now who are these five?
Come, come, all children who love fairy tales.
Trouble School is a very simple, UNO-based card game featuring cute anime-style artwork. The cards represent troubles you're likely to encounter at school, and the goal of the game is to end up with as few as them as possible.
This is one of those Japanese card games that more or less require you to not only immerse into the theme, but also have prior knowledge of what's supposed to be funny. If you don't, you're very likely to be disappointed. In this case, the theme is typical school comedy anime. However, the game included English rules, and the cards also have English flavour text.

A deck of 60 glossy cards with high quality artwork. Nicely done, nothing to be said.

Rule overview and game play
Trouble School (should rather be "Trouble _at_ school") is very clearly a spin-off from UNO, but does have it's own taste.

The deck consists of 60 cards, all numbered 1 to 20, three of each. Numbers 1~18 are in red, green and blue, whereas all 19 and 20-cards are red. These red cards act as jokers in the game.

Each player is dealt 3 cards, the rest of the cards form the draw pile and the game can begin. On each turn, you either play a card or pick up all the played cards. Most of the time, if you can play a card, you will.
In order to play a card, it has to be of the same colour as the previously played card, or one of the red jokers. If there is no previously played card (like, if the player before you picked up the lot), or the last card was a joker, you can play any colour.
Lastly, you have to draw a card from the draw pile.

Game continues until the moment the last card is drawn from the draw pile. This ends the game immediately, and each player counts their score.

The score is equal to the number of differently numbered cards you have. For example, if you have two 4s, one 3 and three 15s, you have scored 3 points. The doubles and triples still count as 1 point. The player with the least points wins. One game takes typically five minutes.

Yep. That's it.

Ehm… did I miss what the game was about?
The previous paragraph will probably leave most people with this question in their heads. What's the point? You play a card, pull a new card, and if you can't play, you collect the lot. No tactic, no choices, no hand management, nothing.

Yet I've pulled up this game on several occasions and had as much as ten games in a row all the while having a blast. How come? As most people can guess, it's the theme and the illustrations. Had the cards been mere UNO cards with no illustrations, this game would have been a dead stinker. This game lives and survives purely on the theme.

But not only that. It's a niched theme. Trouble School, as noted in the introduction, demands that the player is familiar with a certain collection of comical situations and clichés. Strictly spoken, it requires that you've seen quite a lot of school-based comedy Japanese animated TV-series. Yep.

If you haven't, you're very likely to go "huh?" for what this game is about. You might enjoy the pictures, but you probably won't get the point. However, if you have spent an absurd amount of time the last five years watching silly japanese cartoons, this just might strike a chord.

All twenty card types in this game represent a typical anime school comedy cliché. "Lost your wallet", "Picked up a kitten", "Fell down the stairs", "Microwave oven explodes", "Someone saw you at your part-time job", "Someone adores you as a bigger sister" etcetera etcetera. Everyone who has seen enough anime to start chuckling not because the situations are funny, but because it's funny that they have to happen because the genre requires at least ONE microwave to explode, or ONE of the cute girls being a cosplayer in secret, or one silly girl squealing "oneeeeee-samaaaa!" or something like that… they are the ones that start enjoying this game.

A: "Someone had tons of homework!" *plays card*
B: "Not me, but whoever it was fell down the stairs." *plays card*
C: "Hm… and not only that, but her favourite bread was sold out!" *plays card*
D: *can't play a card* "OK, I confess… it was me…"
Everyone: AHAAA!
A: "Well, SOMEone here is adored as a big sister!" *plays card*
B: "Aw, I guess that was me…" *picks up the card*
C: "And the bread was sold out AGAIN!" *plays card*
D: "I told you it was my stupid bread! It's never there" *picks up the card*

…is how the game goes, when people have hooked.

Adjusting the scoring or inventing house-rules is also quite easy. During our sessions with Trouble School we not only decided that you could also play the same number (not just the same colour) as the previously played card, but we also voted that having two of the same trouble was 0 points and having all three was minus one! Our motivation was that doing the same mistake twice was just got you famous for being a typical cliché and doing it three times the same day made you notoriously cute and was a perk. We also noticed that there are seven different girls on the cards, each having 3 troubles each with the last purple-haired one having ony 2, and invented a silly bonus point system for having all (or only) troubles of the same girl.

Shortly, it was a typical example of how a dull game can be funny if put in the right group.

The verdict for this game is easy.

If japanese anime school comedy isn't your cup of tea… well, this game won't be either. In fact, it's a REAL stinker. But if you have seen much too much japanese cartoons of the cute school comedy style, so much that it's part of your blood stream and you can't get enough, this game is actually surprisingly fun for it's dead simplicity.
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