Saturday, July 20, 2013

Crazy Creatures of Dr. Gloom

Crazy Creatures of Dr. Gloom
Designed by Michael Schacht

Introduction / Backstory
Scientists sometimes have a bad rap. Put on a white lab coat and forget to comb your hair for the day and what are you labeled? A "Mad Scientist" most likely. You have to admit that in our fictional world there are a lot of examples of scientists messing with something that quickly grows into a big issue creating all sorts of problems. Think of Dr. Frankenstein and Flint Lockwood (Mmmm....giant food). In Crazy Creatures of Dr. Gloom, you have your heart on becoming the greatest scientist ever! You want...nay...need to become the apprentice of the great Doctor Gloom (or Doom depending on where you live) to realize your dream. Rumors of crazy creatures in the forest surrounding the mansion of Doctor Gloom and colorful clouds coming from his chimney has really peaked your interest. Lucky you - he is looking for a select few to help him with his current project! Will you be successful? Stand out above your competitors on this project and you can become his apprentice and start your way to fame and glory (or at least win the game).

I am a big fan of Michael Schacht's Coloretto and Zooloretto. The game mechanic of those games is just fantastic. This game takes a different, very simple, game mechanic and makes a nice family card game that everyone can enjoy. I think that this game will appeal to those who like games such as Coloretto, Lost Cities, Pinata, Slide 5, Uno, Love Letter, and Little Devils. I can see a lot of different little elements from these games in Crazy Creatures (i.e. the points listed on some of the cards like in Little Devils/Slide 5, the Increasing and Decreasing sides to the machine cards like in Pinata, trying to get rid of your cards first like in Uno, the strategic thought process of trying to determine what your opponents have in their hand like Love Letter...). The game can be a great "filler" for those hard-core gamer types and it provides a very easy, kid-friendly game that the entire family can have fun with. The illustrations are really well done. The way that the monsters evolve and are depicted reminded me of Pokemon (yes, I grew up playing the first U.S. version on my Game Boy).

Overview / Components
You can play Crazy Creatures with 2 to 4 players. I feel that it does play well with just 2 players. The game takes up to 20 minutes to play but can be shorter with just 2 players. Kids ages 7 and up will be able to play the game nicely. Shuffling is required in between rounds but not during game play. Some of the cards are not used each round creating some good unknown element to the game. The game doesn't take up a lot of room and is very easily packed around. While the game may not offer deep strategy, it still offers more strategy than Uno. Players must decide whether to make another draw a card, or change the machine from Increasing to Decreasing. You will want to try and wait to play some cards if you think other players have a duplicate one. Really fun stuff.

The components are great quality all packaged in a nice tin. Instructions are easy to read and understand with helpful illustrations. Cards shuffle well and again, the illustrations on the cards of the creatures/monsters are really enjoyable. The game includes 4 machine cards, and 48 creature cards (1 through 6 in each color/creature twice).

Set Up and Game Play
Game set up is really simple. Place the 4 machine cards with the plus or increasing sign up (possible alternative house rule: place these cards on the table randomly increasing or decreasing side up). Shuffle all 48 creature cards. Deal 12 cards to each player (10 in a 4 player) and deal 8 into a side pile. The rest of the cards are not used this round (in a 4 player game, all cards will be used).

On a player's turn, they play one card from their hand if they are able to the side of one of the machine cards corresponding to the color of creature card (possible alternative house rule: you can choose to pass even if you are able to play a card). You have to play cards according to what the machine for that color currently shows. If the machine is showing the increase side, you must play a card equal or higher than what is shown (special rules for the DNA symbol type cards 1s and 6s). Play then proceeds clockwise. If you can't play, you pass (you may be able to play next time around). If a player is able to play an identical card onto another already in play, that person gets to choose between two bonuses. They can make any other player of their choice take one card from the pile of 8 OR they can choose to flip one of the machine cards switching the rules for that color/creature pile. The DNA symbol cards can be played on one another. This makes it possible to play a 1 on a 6 and vice versa. Pretty handy!

Round / Game End
The round ends when a player plays their last card. Other players then get one more turn if they can play (recommended house rule: end the round immediately and don't allow any further turns). Players then score what remains in their hand. You score one point for each skull and crossbones (cards either have 0, 1, or 2). This gets added to your total. The player who triggers the end of the round by going out first gets a bonus by subtracting 3 points from their total (possible house rules: you can disregard this bonus if you like, or you could allow negative points - in the actual rules, you subtract 3 not going lower than 0). For each game it says to play a number of rounds equal to the amount of players. I feel that for a 2 player game at least, it feels really short. So, you could create a a house rule where you just decide an amount of rounds, or you can always just play again! The winner is the one with the least amount of points.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts
The first time I played it, I honestly felt pretty indifferent about the game. Didn't think it was bad, didn't think it was mind-blowingly awesome. The more I play the game though, the more I have come to enjoy it - a lot. So, take that into consideration. Don't just play it once and make your conclusion about the game. I think a game by  Michael Schacht deserves more than that - this game definitely does. In fact, after a few plays, I have decided to give it a 4 fingers up or 9 out of 10 stars! Now, the enjoyment level for you will differ depending on what you are looking for. Those who like Agricola may not enjoy it nearly as much as one who enjoys games more like Uno, Little Devils, or Coloretto. The game is a simple one, but has plenty of room for strategy and is quickly taught and played. A great portable card game that everyone can enjoy and that is How Lou Sees It!

A big SHOUT OUT to Stronghold Games for making this review possible.

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