One of our time honored Thanksgiving traditions is playing card games around the table after the dishes are cleared and our bellies are full. Last month’s Thanksgiving was just a little bit different from years past. My kids were spread out all over the world, except for Jack, and so my wife and I grabbed the tents and sleeping gear (and a card game or three) and headed to the mountains of Arkansas.
I brought along Tiger Stripes: The Card Game, a new card game designed by Isabella DuBarry with cute art from Felicia Cano.
Isabella is the daughter of designer Philip DuBarry, and she had previously designed Tiger Stripes, a board game that I have never played.
Tiger Stripes: TCG is light and simple. Players are tiger cubs trying to earn their seven stripes by playing cards to collect sets of three cards of the same prey: monkeys, snakes, deer and warthogs. The art is cartoonish and exaggerated but is bright and colorful and captures the flavor of the jungle themed game.
On each card, there is a set of symbols. Those symbols are the currency in the game as well as the cost of each card. That’s the first pro of the game, in that it is easy to distinguish the different costs of the cards (or what they can be used in currency) just by a quick glance at the left hand upper corner.
On each turn, players will have an easy choice to make from three options. They can grab a random card off the jungle deck, and keep what they find. Or they can pick up a free tiger cub from the row of five face up cards in the “jungle” market row. Finally, they could choose instead to spend cards in their hand for the cost of a card or three in the jungle row, just be matching up the symbols on the cards they spend with the symbols required on the jungle cards.
The game is that easy. But there is one little twist. The object of the game, remember, is not just to collect cards but to get those tiger stripes. Each different prey has a different weight in stripes. At the end of any turn, if players have three matching prey, they must give up those cards and add stripes to their home card. (They can also may do it if they combine a ‘wild’ tiger cub in their hand with two matching prey.)
As you can see, the rules can be summarized in just a few minutes and is easy to teach. The decisions are pretty obvious most of the time, and there’s no downside to most of the decisions that are in fact made.
BUT IS IT ANY FUN?
I grew up on light card games. I love rules light games like No Thanks! or For Sale! or Dealt. I was hoping to get something light after our first day on our turkey vaca. Our Thanksgiving dinner was cooked, our pots were cleaned, and we were sitting in the lodge a half mile from our tent where a warm fire and large tables welcomed us out of the cold night.
In that circumstance, Tiger Stripes was the perfect game for this night. We had been on the trail all day, so we did not need anything too taxing to play. Tiger Stripes: The Card Game is a good choice for that style of game experience.
We played the game as a two player quick playing game, and then set up three players and played the rest of the night in that format. I found the three player game a bit more intriguing because the board state (the jungle market) changed more often. We even purposely played a couple of games where one person had to top deck blindly every round to build up the sets, to see if that was a better strategy than trying to capture prey. (Needless to stay, it was not).
Is it too light? In this situation, it was not, because we were pretty tired from the hikes and from the weather. But at other times? Yes, Tiger Stripes the Card Game is too light for me to play with my regular game group. Top decking good cards, with the very occasional buy, just feels too strong and is too brain dead of a strategy to enjoy.
Of course, I only have a half dozen plays of the game so far, so maybe it was just the luck of the shuffle. But, to entice our game group, the designers would have to add in an extra layer of tension that those other card games I mentioned above have. Could the designers have done something about the strength of just top decking every time? We debated it in our plays. Two decks? One with prey that is never top decked? Maybe. I’m not a designer, I just see what I see.
On the other hand, the weight of the game is solidified a bit by the strategy of when to trade in a juicy wild tiger cub or two to get a good set of prey cards in the jungle. If all your opponents are doing is top decking (and getting tiger cub after tiger cub from the deck) you could play a couple of tiger cub cards with four spots on the resources, and grab two or even three or more cards at the lookout spot. That ability can score three or four stripes very quickly and end the game abruptly. Better be ready!
Even with the luckiness of the top decking strategy, someone still had to capture prey by turning in cards for stripes. I think the target age of middle schooler to grandma is a good target. For the Gumbo Krewe, we are looking for just a little more meat on the bones, but I could see l some gamers playing this at holiday family get togethers.
The artwork is fun, and the gameplay has a tempo that allows players to chat a bit while playing without being too distracted. It’s too light for any serious game night at our FLGS, but might be something to consider for family game nights. For our tastes, it was a little too random even considering the weight, so I cannot recommend it, but your mileage may vary.
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
The publisher provided a copy of the game for review.