A Quick Straw Poll Says…No.



designed by Richard James, published by AEG

You are all traders attempting to load all your goods onto one poor camel. The camel has a load limit of fifty and players will take turns playing one card, either adding or subtracting from the total load. Some cards, like Furniture will add 9 to the total, but the Flying Carpet will subtract anywhere from 2 or 9! Whoever plays the card that pushes the camel’s load over fifty breaks the camels back and gets nothing while all OTHER players will score the point values of the cards remaining in their hands. Except, if you play the Straw card. If the load is exactly fifty and you play the literal Straw that breaks the camel back, only you get points for that round and everyone else gets nothing! High score wins after playing as many rounds as there are players!

While the Straw card adds a nice bit of thematic strategy, the rest of the game turns into holding on to your high point value cards and only playing the bad cards (either 0 or negative points), causing the load to rise very, very slowly at times, much to the chagrin of the more impatient players in the group.

One Line Verdict: Not quite straw into gold, as the game turns to tedium pretty quickly.

Dead Men Walking


“The Walking Dead Card Game”

designed by Wolfgang Kramer, published by Cryptozoic Entertainment

A re-theming of the excellent “6Nimmt” with zombies. The players all simultaneously pick a card from their starting hand of 10 cards, reveals it, and each player then plays their card into one of four rows, starting with the lowest number first. Your card is placed to the highest number it is closest to. If you place the sixth card in a row, you end up taking that whole row of cards. Each card will have between one and six bullets on it: the more bullets you collect, the worse off you are. Gasp in horror as all four rows fill up with five cards and just pray that your opponents will take rows before you…and oddly thematic as you see hordes of walkers slowly build up as cards are placed down and more and more bullets show up…Three rounds later, the person with the least number of bullets wins!  There’s also a hero mode where you try and TAKE the most bullets, but that one seems lame and tacked on.

Great for people who like “6 Nimmt” and zombies (or walkers, if you prefer). Great even for people who don’t like the latter.  But the pictures on the card might be too scary for the little ones.

One Line Verdict: solid game, tacked on theme, but still fun because the core game is great.

Monster Mash


designed by Masao Suganuma, published by IDW Games

“Diamonsters” These cute little monsters want diamonds! A very quick and easy bidding game: flip a card, and try to win that monsters and add it to your collection by bidding with a card numbered 1-5. The same number card played by different players cancels each other out, and high number left wins, but 1 beats 5! Winner places the card she used plus the card she won into her face up “monster collection.” Repeat until one player has three of the same monster in her collection or has five face-up diamonds (which are printed on the cards). The winner of the round gets one plastic diamond piece. Repeat until one player gets five diamonds (or so, depending on the number of players).

More of a “what card do I think my opponents will play?” sort of filler, with surprisingly poorly written rules for the endgame. Because you take the monster you played and the one you won into your collection, there is some strategy. Not much, but some. Cute illustrations, giant box.

One Line Verdict: These monsters are easy to avoid. Unless it’s for like 5 bucks.

Poker Made Even More Vile and Disgusting


“Cockroach Poker”

designedly Jacques Zeimet, published by Competo/Marektoy

In this pure bluffing game, keep the vermin away from you by passing them off to other players. Pick a card from your hand, hand it to the next player and declare boldly what it is: truth optional. The next player can decide to pass: then he looks at it, passes it to the next player and he declares boldly what it is. Or, he calls the bluff: “that’s not a cockroach!” Guess right, and the original player gets the card in face up in front of them: or guess wrong, and you get the card. First to four of the same vermin in front of them loses.

Complete crap if you’re bad at bluffing or trying to read your opponent. So, good thing I won by not going out first.  Otherwise, quick and light and a great filler.

Zen Turf War



designed by Jordan Goddard & Mandy Goddard, published by Renegade Game Studios

Get your Zen on in this gorgeously illustrated card-game of flower building.  Build flowers by playing cards in a clever circular pattern. Each round, place up to two petal cards to build up to five different kinds of flowers of five different sizes.  Then claim those complete flowers as points. However, you can also “control” flowers through adorable little bug guardian tokens. Control lets you take a five-point token or to upgrade your abilities.

Don’t let the cover fool or zen aesthetic fool you: best comment about the game isn’t even mine, but from my son: “it’s a pretty game for what amounts to a brutal turf war.”