Pack & Stack (2008)
Designer: Bernd Eisenstein
Publisher: Mayfair Games
Time: 20-45 minutes
This game is really short and does not have a lot of strategy, but neither of those aspects prevent it from being fun.
(please note that some of this review is based on comments received by a friend who played with younger kids)
At first you are given 75 points and then you start your turn by rolling the five dice. Each dice matches in color one of the blocks, which range in size from one by one (white) to five by one (purple).
Based on the dice roll, you take the equivalent number of blocks of each color. Each player then does the same thing, thus you now all have the blocks that you need to place into your moving truck. Based on the number of players, you then each take one or two moving trucks which are hidden and place them face down in front of you.
The next step is the speed aspect of the game. Everyone at the same time turns over their trucks and you must choose a truck from the ones in front of the other players (you cannot pick one in front of yourself). The last player to choose one has to take a random one from the top of the stack, thus not knowing what truck they will have.
Each truck has specific space (outlined in white) that the players can place blocks on and each truck also has a number on it, stating how high you can stack the blocks. Thus based on those two aspects you want to pick a truck that would fit your blocks exactly.
As you place your blocks onto your truck, which is not a race, you get a one point penalty for each empty space on your truck and a two point penalty for each one by one cube that you cannot place on your truck (thus a one by five block will give you a 5 x 2 = 10 point penalty). You must add these two penalties together and pay them to the bank.
After that, you once again roll the dice to start the next round. Once one player runs out of points, the game ends and the one with the most points wins.
There are of course a bunch of variants, where you can pay five points to select a visible truck instead of having to take a random one; you can carry over up to five block to the next round or other such variants.
As you can see, it is not the most intense of strategy games, but it is clearly aimed more at families or filler and for that it accomplishes its task. The game can be played in 20 minutes and the whole game takes place in the choosing of a truck. Getting stuck with a random truck really sucks, although you may get lucky, it is not a wise choice to bank on that.
Also, since you get a penalty for having pieces left over and for having open spaces on your truck, you cannot pick a truck that is too big or too small, it needs to be exact. The largest pieces, one by five, also do not fit on all the trucks, so once you have one of those who eliminate all the trucks that do not have beds that go from front to back, since the max high is also only four.
That's basically all the strategy, since you get a penalty per one by one block, there is no advantage in placing the larger ones versus the smaller one. But when you play with adults, you may want to alter the rules, some of which the game suggests and some which you may come up on your own, such as more penalties for larger pieces. The ability to pay to carry over blocks, which would be cheaper then the penalty, but may cause another penalty later on, so it would be risky. You can even add a trading or buying system, where you can buy extra blocks or trade blocks with others and the bank, but of course, before you get your truck. And finally, a bonus for placing a lot of blocks, especially large blocks.
I have not personally tried all these variants, but for a filler game, you can almost change it as you wish, maxing it more complex and longer. My one complains it that it is not the most travel friendly game. Once you remove the box it is much better, but still not small enough to just put in your bag if you are already tight on space.
In addition to this, there are some variants here on BGG for solo play and for multiple players. I tend not to play board games on my own, but the variant does seem quite decent and may be worth a try for those that enjoy playing against the game. There is also an auction variant that I want to try out, which is apparently a little more hardcore. As can be seen, the game can be changed to each person's preference.
All in all, it may not be my favorite game, but when you have some time to burn, such as you are waiting for another group to finish their game so you can regroup people, or you have kids who need to pass some time, it works very well. A cute, simple game is exactly what this is.
I think if I had children to play with my rating would also go up, but I rarely play games with children, so based on that I give it a 6.5, but I lent it to a friend and his nephews/nieces liked it a lot, so based on your situation, you may enjoy it more.
Rating: (6.5 / 10)
ahh....I love the smell of a stack of sketchily placed animals in the morning!
I can't lie and say I didn't find playing this fun with a few friends and family, but I was a bit underwhelmed by the level of strategy in a family game like pack & stack. I would certainly urge that if you are a heavy games fan, expect to resent your purchase for a few plays until you resign yourself that its simply meant to be fun and light.
(just) West of London
This game was, at best, mildly amusing for a turn or two. But at a recommended retail price of GBP40 (really!), there are way better ways of spending my hard earned money.