Roux Dat #31: Mardi Gras Madness, Vamp On The Batwalk, and King of the Pitch

Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here back with more tales of gaming down on the bayou. This has been a tough time for getting in person multiplayer games in, but luckily, I have a few gamers at home, and some steady friends who will get together online frequently.

Hit us up on Twitter or on Facebook and let us know what games you’ve been playing during this crisis and what games you think we should play!

But that’s enough blather, let’s get to the games! This week we played Mardi Gras Madness, Vamp on the Batwalk, and King of the Pitch, three very different games.

Throw Me Some Cardboard, Mister!

It feels a little bit underwhelming to jump into a Mardi Gras themed game, but hey, it’s Louisiana — which means it can be Fat Tuesday every day, right?

The folks at Uplink Underground Games are from right down the road in New Orleans and sent us a copy of their pocket sized card game, Mardi Gras Madness. When it came in, the artwork and back of the box description kind of put me off a bit, like a parade Krewe that you’ve never seen before, but I was willing to give it a chance.

Surprise! I played it with four other family weight gamers and it was a big hit.

In Mardi Gras Madness, up to six gamers will attend a parade in the Crescent City and attempt to score as many points as possible by catching as many “throws” as possible. (That’s parade lingo for the beads, doubloons and stuffed toys that come flying out of the parade floats for parade watchers to catch.)

It is essentially a set collection game, but also a “watch what your neighbor is collecting game” because there are only six spots for each player’s two meeples, meaning that many spots will be taken over by more than one person in the crowd. When that happens, each player rolls the number of six-sided dice as equals the number of their meeples at that spot, and the highest total wins.

Sure, that level of randomness will throw off a lot of euro players, but there are plenty of “throws” that can mitigate that luck. The throws do come out randomly, but there are a ton of them, and it feels strategic to scan whats available and figure out which player could potentially duel you for a space in front of that particular float.

We did have two slightly picayune complaints: First, one of the cards references a phrase on other cards that is not very prominently displayed (the “I Know Somebody” cards). I wish those cards had a better graphic design layout to stress that a player can play a reaction card against that situation.

Second, the final scoring has so many different ways to score points, that it was honestly a little tough to keep up during the game. The box promises a light experience, but the set collection part at the end (especially without a scoresheet) could be confusing for some new gamers.

We all talked about how much we enjoyed the game, but that we would probably try to home rule some of the set collection rules if we were playing with a younger set or newer players, and drill down on the categories that seem more fun.

ROUX DAT SAYS: After some reflection, maybe the chaotic nature of the roll offs, multiple set collection, and tons of scoring is the point of the game. Anyone who has ever been to a big Lafayette or New Orleans parade knows how chaotic it can be, especially at night, so thematically, we could argue that the designers were just recreating that effect.

But honestly, the eight rounds run so quickly that we had a lot of fun competing for the throws. The tension in the roll offs (which has some positive reinforcement for “losers” of the roll off by giving them one card from the powerful effects deck) was as intoxicating as the smell of Jax beer and Old Charter on a Saturday night down in the Quarter.

Music And Passion Were Always In Fashion

My buddy, Jay Bell, designer and frequent contributor to the Gumbo, had brought us a copy of Vamp On The Batwalk published by Jellyfish Game Studios, and designed by Jon Simantov with art from Michael Rankin. It is a cleverly themed trick-taking adjacent game about Vampire fashionistas vamping down the catwalk (batwalk). Yes, the puns are numerous and scary, but the artwork really leans into the theme.

In Vamp, players will get a hand of cards which they will use to try and score ten points on the runway (batway) or have the most after the last round ends. The usual rules of winning tricks applies, although this time, there are two twists — first, there is a rock-paper-scissors thing going with the garlic, stars, and high numbers on the cards, and second, Vampire Can’t See Themselves on the runway! That’s right, mix your standard Diamonds style trick taking game with special powers on some of the cards with Hanabi, and you have the makings for a quick playing but brain burning deduction-turned-trick taking game.

My first play was with some of the Gumbo Krewe two weeks ago. But I wanted a second shot at it, so I played it with some family members who were in town visiting. We picked up the rules right away, and started deducing our way to the ten point end game trigger.

Even though my family are experienced Bourre’ and Hanabi players, some of them could never could get into the spirit of not seeing your cards in your hand. Well, all but two of the players had trouble – my son and his godmother both were excellent at staring at everybody else’s hands, and figuring out right away what cards were in their own hands.

Me? I continue to play by a rule — if I can get down to two or three options in a second or two, that’s all the brainpower I am going to spend.

ROUX DAT SAYS: I think Vamp works better with players well-familiar with board gaming, as the combination of the hidden hands, the deduction element, the trick-taking and the twist with the rock-paper-scissors+special powers is just a little bit too much for non-board gaming family gamers. But, I can see this being a fun little game to play at conventions when it is getting late at night and we are working on our second wind.

My Kingdom For A Soccerball

Last, we played a four player version of a new game hitting Kickstarter soon from Rigo Games, King of the Pitch. Rigo is the same company that brought us another quirky themed game, Trasteros Locos. This time, instead of trying to outguess your opponent for super expensive stuff in abandoned storage bins, up to five players will be managing European style football clubs as they try to become the king of the pitch.

Players will first draft suitable strikers, defenders, and midfielders for their teams by spending gold, silver and bronze cubes. They can earn more by “trading” players in or selling their contracts outright.

Once they have enough players, they can start challenging other teams to a “match”, provided they have a match card in hand. Matches are decided by dice rolling, and we learn how many dice we can use by looking at our team boards. The lowest result of either offense or defense affects what rolls each player will be able to take. The luck can be mitigated a bit, just like in Mardi Gras Madness, by drafting BONUS and VAR cards from the tableau.

There is a little bit of lagniappe with the Kickstarter project that I thought was kind of cool. The box itself is used in the game, because inside of it is a miniature little soccer stadium complete with stands for your team’s fans to sit when you are involved in a match. Of course, the pictures do not do much justice because this is just a prototype copy. I am sure it will have some gorgeous artwork and design once the project is finished.

ROUX DAT SAYS: Just like in Mardi Gras Madness, there is a lot of randomness to this game, but it is not an inappropriate amount for what is essentially a very light family style game. I like the fact that you have to pay very close attention to what kind of teams the other players are building, so that you can keep up in the “arms race” of points that gets you the most amount of dice to roll. We did think that the game started a bit too slowly for such a light game — I would like to see some discussion in the project about ways to speed up the game, or really, ways to ramp up the powerful teams that make for fun and exciting matches. Maybe players could 7 Wonders style draft a three person core veteran team, and then take two actions per turn so long as they are not the same action? We’ll keep an eye out for the development during the campaign.

THE WRAP UP:

So that’s it for our recent plays. Roux Dat will be back for more early looks at recent plays, especially in this uncertain time when it is tough to get a group of gamers together for a more proper review. Is there a game out there that you or your friends are curious about? Hit us up with a tweet @boardgamegumbo and we will see if we can get our hands on the game!

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ @boardgamegumbo

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