Preview: Pack O Game 2

5 games
Pack O Game 2

Perplext’s Pack O Game is back on Kickstarter. Following a very successful 2014 Kickstarter campaign that raised over $50,000 and allowed the designer/publisher to not only publish the initial 4 games (review), but also to publish an additional 4 games and a hold-all clutch bag through stretch goals. The games were delivered one year later to backers and have been well received.
This time, the prolific designer is back looking to raise $20,000 in order to add four more games to the series.

Chris was kind enough to send us a copy of each of these games ahead of the kickstarter. So, how do they hold up?

In Pack O Games, Chris has found a niche, and created a line of very different game themes and mechanisms but that follow a very linear style. As before, each 3 inch “pack-of-gum” sized game is individually numbered (9-12 to continue the series). And the line continues the 3 character name tradition. This time, we are presented with SOW, GYM, ORC, RUM, (with BOO and NUT possibly being made available if stretch goals are reached).

(Link to Conclusion)

GYM

Gym the game
Gym.

Pack O Game: 9 Level: Challenging
Players: 2, 4, 6 Age: 10+ Length: 15 mins
Mechanism: Drafting, Area Control.
BGG Link

Gym is recommended for team play, although it can be played one against one. The game is simple to setup, place 12 of the students in a row, then place the events in another row, place the remaining cards off to one side.
The game starts with players drafting student cards based on the individuals statistics. The statistics are either two categories of sports (one main, and one secondary), or one sports category and a black ZERO. These guys are bullies. Each time a bully is taken, the row of events is adjusted; either the active player advances one event two space, or they advance two events one space. At the end of the draft (which is repeated a second time with the remaining student cards), the four events that have advanced furthest will be the ones used. The two events that are not used will be flipped, and turned into coaches.

Gym cards
Students and events.

The four selected events are rotated and placed between the teams, who will then take turns alternating to allocate students from their hand of cards to positions along their side of the event cards. However, each event only has room for three students per team. The player can then activate the power of the event card; Swap a kid with one in your hand, Switch two placed kids, Force an opponent to play a random kid next, Swap 2 kids on opposing teams, Remove a kid from an opponents hand and swap it with in your hand, or Move a kid to a different empty slot on the same team. Finally, if the student placed was a bully, the player can then choose to move one of the two coaches. Coaches are moved next to an event, and prohibit interaction with kids on either team at that event (although the event action can still be completed). Play continues alternating between the teams until the final student has been placed from the last players hand. Points are then scored by totalling the points of each student on each team at each activity, the team with the highest amount of points scores the difference in points, with the winner being the team that has the largest combined point total.

What’s amazing with this game, is the amount of replayability this small number of cards offers at each game play. With six different events all with a unique ability, but only a combination of four being available through the game, and all children being drafted, there is plenty of change that will happen with each game. There is no doubt that the game is a bit of a brain burner, and it could take longer if you have a player in the game who suffers from the need to math out every move to the nth degree. The theme is kind of fun and certainly different, and we had a bit of fun telling the stories of the kids, who or why they were participating in the various events. The drafting didn’t initially really seem to matter to the outcome of the game, as there was plenty of ways in which it’s possible to change the outcome of the positioning of the kids in the second half of the game. Working out who to place where, and when to activate which event ability will ultimately play a more important part in the outcome of your game. Initially I thought that taking the power to force a player to play a random card seemed like a powerful ability to have access to, but it didn’t win me the game. If you like a challenge, this game could be of interest.

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RUM

Rum the game
Rum.

Pack O Game: 10 Level: Intermediate
Players: 2-4 Age: 10+ Length: 15 mins
Mechanism: Set Collection, Push Your Luck
BGG Link

Rum has a interesting mechanism in it that took me way to long to get to grips with. And for me the game seemed to be over before I felt I even had a chance to start.
Setup is easy and quick, separating the various components, placing the captain and timer cards to one side, and shuffling the remainder cards upside down to form a shipwreck draw pile. Each of the shipwreck cards, or rum cards have images of two coloured rum bottles on one edge, or rotate it for another single rum bottle of another colour. There are 7 colours in total.
Players can either draw from the facedown shipwreck, or bring the game closer to an end condition by taking one of three face up beached rum cards. Beach cards are replaced with face down cards from the shipwreck, and when the three face up cards have been taken, the timer is adjusted, the cards are then flipped face up. This continues until the timer hits 7, or one player breaks an end of game score (based on the number of players).
The aim is to collect sets of like coloured bottles, then play them in sets of as many bottles as possible in order to take the corresponding coloured captain card, rotating it to the size of the set they played. Ownership of the captain cards can change if another player completes a larger set of like coloured rum bottles. Sets of cards are played, but have different values depending on their orientation (for either the one bottle side or the two bottle side). Additionally when counting the number of bottles, players can utilise the single bottles from the communal beached cards. Finally, if one player is able to complete a set that contains all three single bottles of one colour, then they can add two additional points to the captain card, when they rotate it to the size of the set they played. Oh yeah, did I mention that one of the shipwreck cards is a parrot card that will accelerate the games end when it is drawn and revealed? The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

Rum setup
Rum set up.

Rum felt to me to be the lightest of the four games presented here, and although the game-play time on the box is longer than on Orc, our games seemed to play much quicker. As mentioned the game has an ability to autopilot quickly to the game end. Ultimately what Rum offers players is a simple set collection game, where you are racing against other players to complete a set quicker than your opponents in order to gain the Captain card. Don’t underestimate the ability to increase the level of a captain card under your control, and stop the other players from taking it from you. The mechanism I mentioned at the start was the way the shipwrecked bottles of rum wash up onto the beach as community sets, combined with the captain cards that can be stolen from you, the game has a number of “ack… why you… I was just about to…” moments of cursing at opponents for completing a set just before you were going to do it, and then the game ends.

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SOW

Sow the game
Sow.

Pack O Game: 11 Level: Challenging
Players: 2-4 Age: 10+ Length: 20 mins
Mechanism: Mancala, Pick Up and Deliver, Set Collection.
BGG Link

So far, we’ve had a game about High School sports, and a game about Pirates collecting rum. It’s only logical then that the next game be about….
… gardening.
Sow is probably the hardest game to play and get your head around. If Gym gave the “analysis paralysis” gamer a few troubles, then Sow will bring their game to a grinding halt. But if Mancala mechanisms are your thing, then you’ll probably love it.
Luckily I’m very fond of Manacla puzzles, even if I’m not very good at them.
Four wheelbarrows are placed in a square. Each player is seated across from one of the randomly placed wheelbarrow cards, each of which has a favourite colour on the reverse. This colour is only known to that player. Below each wheelbarrow there are two spaces in which seed cards can be sown. During setup two seed cards are placed in each position, two seed cards are also dealt to each of the four corners. Finally two special cards, the Windmill, and the Gopher are placed on two opposing corners.

Sow set up
Sow set up.

On their turn a player must pick up any set of 2 or more cards, then redistribute them by placing one card on each row from the position directly after the row where they took the cards. The direction these cards must be placed depends on the current direction indicated on the windmill card. All cards are placed seed side up, with the exception of the last placed card. This card is always placed seed side face down. Additionally all seeds of the same colour are turned seed side face down. This reveals a flower. Each flower has two colours; a centre colour, and a petal colour. These are relevant for scoring. However in order to score, you first have to pick the flowers. If the last card placed was a flower, and it is placed in one of the two positions under their wheelbarrow, they can select one of the two colours on that flower and pick all the flowers of that colour and place them in front of them to form a bouquet. The game continues until each row has either 1 or 0 cards remaining.
If at any point the windmill and gopher cards are placed in the same row, then the active player sects of of those two cards to turn over. Flipping the wheelbarrow will change the direction of sowing the seeds. Flipping the gopher will allow the player to either remove all the flowers from one row out of the game, or pick 1 flower from their wheelbarrow and add it to their bouquet.
When the game ends players will score points for each flower in their bouquet. Scoring 3 points for each flower with the favourite colour in the centre, 2 points for each flower with the favourite colour on the petals, and 1 point for every flower without the favourite colour. The player with the most points wins the game.

As I stated at the start of this synopsis, if you enjoy Mancala themed games, then you will be drawn towards the quaintness of Sow, which within a few turns reveals itself to be a more complex game than the simplistic style falsely hints at. If the game is to be criticised for anything, it may be the fact that you are playing for points, which the individual player doesn’t know until it’s too late, which adds a weird randomness to the game. What you do know is that the colour of the seed pack, will score you two points, if you place them last on your wheelbarrow. What you don’t know is which of the other seeds will score you 3 points, or swing down to just one. Don’t underestimate using the two special garden cards when the opportunity arrives, although the ability to remove an entire row of flowers can be a bit cutthroat. Scoring more than one flower on your wheelbarrow on your turn, is probably the key to victory, but don’t count on planning anything until the start of your turn, as the layout changes so much before it’s your turn again. This is definitely a Mancala game for gamers who like a puzzle to solve.

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ORC

Orc the game
Orc.

Pack O Game: 12 Level: Intermediate
Players: 2 Age: 8+ Length: 5 mins
Mechanism; Set Collection, Area Control
BGG Link

Finally we have the two-player battle of area supremacy that is Orc. This was the game that I was most interested to try, whilst also being most nervous about the result. The name instantly takes me to the realm of fantasy, and that’s not something the other games in the line have attempted before, so how would Orc hold up?

Like the double edged cards of Rum, the front of all 30 cards are made up of either one or two Orc figures on 1 of 6 coloured “Territory” backgrounds, with each half of the card having a different colour.
The game is set up using three cards turned horizontally, and showing each of the six territory colours only once. The remaining cards are shuffled, and dealt out between and at the ends of each of the horizontal cards. With 4 cards in each pile, 3 cards remain. One player may decide then to either take 1 of the remaining three cards (sight unseen) and take the first move, or take two of the cards, but play second. Finally the game box is placed at one end of the setup.

The game takes place over six battles, which are initiated when the stockpile next to a territory has been depleted. With the victor of the territory being the person with the most Orcs at that location (indicated by turning one of the cards to the spear side on the side of the victor). Once all stockpiles have been depleted, after the final battle, a round of scoring will take place.

Sow set up
Orc set up.

On your turn, you play one card from your hand to am unconquered territory (or removing the card form the game). Then you MUST either draw 1 card from any stockpile if you played a card with 2 orcs, or draw 2 cards from any stockpile if you played a card with 2 orc. There are strict rules that must be adhered to with regards to the placement of cards from your hand to a territory.
Final scoring is based on the territories you conquered and cards left in your hand at the end of the game. You receive one point for conquering a territory with containing one orc, and two points for one containing two. Additionally you receive one point for each orc in your hand that matches the territory that you conquered. The player with the most points wins the game.

OK, so I was really surprised by Orc, I wasn’t sure what type of game was going to be presented here, and the game won me over very quickly. It’s quick, and very intuitive, but with just enough game to keep you involved. Orc is all about knowing when to “go for it”, and play the card you need to control an area, without playing your hand too quickly, and letting your opponent in on your plan. The twist of scoring additional points for orcs in your hand at game end lead to some interesting decisions towards the end of the game; do you play the card to help secure the territory, or risk losing the territory, but know that if you take the risk and don’t lose the territory, you’ll get the bonus points for keeping the orcs in your hand. It’s an interesting dilemma.

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Pack O Game 2
Pack O Games 2

Conclusion.

It’s a testament to the design skills of Handy, that he is able to bring an additional minimum 4 games to the Pack O Game line, and still stick to the design restraints of thirty elongated cards, and a double-sided foldaway rule book that fits into this tiny box.
As a designer I’ve always found restricting yourself by limiting the components to be an interesting challenge, and I’m certain that the designer here is having a ball. The variety of games presented here is really great. Deciding which is my favourite game in this collection is pretty tough because they all offer such different themes, mechanisms, and experiences.

So here’s the deal, for the size, and for the price, the second round of Pack O Game continues to roll out and improve upon the ideas released from the first round of releases. In an anthology of games, some will obviously be stronger than others, but what is great, is that because the games are so different, they’ll appeal to a broad range of gamers. There’s filler here for everyone. What you get for your money is a diverse collection of quick to play, pocket-sized games, that you can pretty much play on any small table. The small sized packaging takes up very little room, which makes them an ideal set to throw into your pocket, purse, or POD as you leave the house. Each small game title may only manage 3 letters, but it is a three letter word that best sums up these games. F-U-N.

Pack O Game will be available on Kickstarter from March 3rd 2016 until April 1st 2016.

(All game images provided & copyright by Perplext 2016)

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