Friday, February 17, 2017

Summing up Pack O Game... so far

I have now had a chance to play every game in the first series of the Pack O Game line. With the second series about to come out, I figured it was a good time for a personal survey of the games that are already out.

I had thought of trying to put them in some kind of best to worst order but I ended up with too many ties. The different games fit too many different niches for me to properly compare them. So, instead, I put them in their official order.

1 HUE - A simple tile laying game with the very effective design choice of having the last tile in your hand being the colors you score. Not my favorite game but it is my favorite one to introduce people to the line with. It feels like a micro game but it a very good one.

2 TKO - A boxing game built around rock-paper-scissors. TKO feels like the least innovative game in the line. This kind of ground has been covered in other games, like Pico 2. But it's saving grace is that we have fun playing it.

3 GEM - An auctions game where you collect gems for points with a tight economy of both money and gems. This is one of the best games in the series, not just a good micro game but a good game period.

4 FLY - A dexterity game about dropping a fly swatter card to collect flies. I admire that Chris Handy included a dexterity game in the series and it does have a nice scoring system. However, it is easily my least favorite game in the series. The low height doesn't make it very frenetic or exciting.

5 TAJ - A voting game where you manipulate the position of rugs, which also changes the value of colors on the rugs. This is probably the most ambitious and intricate game in the series. However, I found it too fiddly. Too much of the game was spent making sure we were following the process instead of strategy. I would be willing to try it again and see it that can be overcome.

6 LIE - It's Liars Dice with dice faces printed on the cards. Each card has two dice so you get to have some control over your pips. Here's the thing. While I think Liars Dice is better, that doesn't change that LIE is a fun, engaging game. It's a strong part of the series.

7 SHH - A cooperative word game that is played in silence. This surprised me by how tense and exciting it is. Simple rules leading to white knuckle play. So much better than unexpected. 

8 BUS - A pickup and delivery game made out of thirty skinny cards. I love that this even exists but it's also a solid game that takes such advantage of the form. The elements flow together well and it's in the running with GEM as my favorite.

The concept of Micro Games changed when Love Letter proved that there was a real market for Micro Games and that they could have depth and complexity. Pack O Game steps up to that challenge well. If you have an interest in travel games or short form games or games that have a very small footprint, this is a collection well worth having in your collection.

Really, HUE, GEM, LIE, SHH and BUS are games that would have made an impact if they had been solo releases. Heck, I wonder if some of them, like SHH, would have made a bigger impact as a solo release with regular size cards.

Pack O Game has the gimmick of every game being thirty skinny cards. But that gimmick does not define the games or control what they are. In the end, a Micro Game has to stand as a game, not as a small package. 

And, as is ridiculously clear, I think that most of the Pack O Game series succeeds. Five of the games are very strong. Even TKO and TAJ have their string points. Seven out of eight is a good score.

And if this was it, I'd still be impressed. But Chris Handy is adding ten more games to the series. I am really curious to see what they will be like.

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