I love to find games, even accidentally, that break the mold of previous games. Recently, the Krewe de Gumbo were asked to look at a new game from the folks at Smirk & Dagger, one that was touted as an interesting new take on the real time mechanism.
Our krewe is not big into real time games — I like Escape: Curse of the Temple and Space Cadets: Dice Duel well enough, but find them hard to get to the table at our game group — so I was hesitant about breaking out a new game with that mechanic in it.
But, I was pleasantly surprised at what we found when we started diving into the rules. Does your game group like real time games with a heavy dose of theme? Would they enjoy a games that moves away from frantic dice chucking as the main way of getting resources?
Then Spice It Up! with Paramedics: Clear! from Smirk & Dagger Games.
Paramedics is a 2017 release designed by Gary Kagan , with art from Curt Covert, Gary Kagan and Eric Wilkerson. Up to four players will take turns as paramedics on three particularly stressful shifts, where every second counts to try and save each patient.
Game play is relatively simple. Each player chooses a starting player board that represents their emergency vehicle. Players will start with two patients on their boards, one face up, and one face down. When it is their turn, they will have 60, 45 or 30 seconds (depending on the shift) to gather as many life saving resources like syringes, bandages, and blood as they can and match them to the needs of each patient.
Unlike the typical real time game, there are no dice to throw and no Yahtzee mechanics to worry about. Instead, players have a hand of five colored cards representing the material needed to make up the life saving resources, with an additional set in the center of the table as extras. Each resource takes a different formula of colored cards, and players can trade with the center board as needed, or even with other players if they are willing to do a mandatory two-for-one trade.
Players have room to store a couple extra resources in their medicine cabinets, and can burn extra sets of matching cards to upgrade their vehicles. These upgrades can allow players to have bigger hands or even get an emergency one time save for any particularly difficult patient.
Players save patients by matching resources to the medical treatment required on each patient card, and gain victory points at the end of the game for each one saved. So long as you continue to pay one resource on a patient during your turn, the patient will be stabilized. But fail to stabilize a patient — or fail to heal a “critical” patient — and you lose the patient to the morgue (i.e negative points).
The uniqueness of the game play is that each player is only playing in real time during their turn. While the other players are playing, you can tidy your board, think about your plan, and laugh at the mistakes the other players make!
Players will continue taking turns, gathering medical resources, and saving patients until the deck runs out. Three times through the deck equals the end of the game, but each pass through the deck gives each player a shorter time to work.
Credit goes to Smirk & Dagger for a well presented game. Player boards are sturdy and thick, and each board has a unique formula for some of the medical treatment.
There are a ton of different patient cards, each with varying degrees of horrible injuries. During the down time during your turn, it is always fun to compare the injuries each player has to handle during their shift.
Instead of a sand timer, the designers have created a free app that has realistic sound effects and a very stressful timer. I highly recommend using the app as it really heightens the tension.
BUT IS IT FUN?
As I said before, real time games are hard for me to bring to Gumbo Game Night. We usually have three or four noisy tables going, with lots of good natured chiding and ribbing between games. Using any kind of app based game or playing a real time noisy game usually isn’t in the cards.
Plus, teaching these games can be difficult. A game like Space Cadets: Dice Duel — while ratcheting up the tension more than any other game I have played — is a bear to teach sometimes. It has so many different roles and a lot of little fiddly rules for each one, plus the whole battle / tactics scene, that it is not easy to quickly teach on a normal game night. (As an event game for a game day or scout event, it works like a champ).
Forget all that with Paramedics. Number one, there are no “roles” to learn. Each board plays the same way, although they have different formulas for the medicine. The game is not “easy” to teach, but it is “relatively” easy to teach.
Number two, while there is a lot of action, the rules are really not that fiddly. Put a patient down, check what medicine needs to be used to save / sustain the patient, and then start playing and trading cards. Sure, there is a little more meat to the game than that over-simplification, but essentially that is what you are doing. The boards and the graphic design is so well done, that it is very easy to follow what your next steps should be. (The trick is remembering to do them in the correct order WHILE THAT TIMER IS TICKING DOWN AND DOWN AND DOWN…)
Number three, for what is essentially a very thematic set collection and trading game, Paramedics surprisingly feels very thematic. Maybe it is the combination of the sounds of the app, the cute little graphics on the tokens and your very medically-flavored player boards, but all of it worked for us. We all dove into our characters, and talked up how well our patients were doing (or not doing in many of my cases.)
Maybe the best thing that I like is the way it turned the real time game into a different animal. Instead of all of the players going on at the same time, and not being able to watch what each one is doing, almost like a four or eight player solitaire game, in Paramedics, players are frantically playing their board for no more than one minute. Then they can breathe, and relax, and have fun cleaning up their area and watching how the other players handle the mayhem that was created on their turn.
Has Smirk & Dagger invented the first relaxing-yet-stess-inducing-real-time game? Perhaps, but whatever you call it, Paramedics is a blast to play.
If I have any complaints, and they are few, the rules were well laid out but there were a couple of little quirky loopholes that we could not figure out. Luckily, the designer is pretty active on the forums, and most of our questions were answered with just a quick search on the boards.
If you are open to real time games, that are very thematic, pretty easy to teach and look good on the table — check out Paramedics: Clear! by Smirk & Dagger Games. Save lives one gamer at a time!
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!