Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Bitin’ Off Hedz - not a good game but maybe a good learning curve

Bitin’ Off Hedz is definitely in the running  for the worst Cheapass Game I’ve experienced. 

It came out in 1996 and I think that James Earnst was still  finding his bearings. We had already gotten Kill Doctor Lucky, so there was the  promise of things to come.

The theme of the game is that you are all dinosaurs who are all so bored that you’ve decided to race to the volcano to throw yourself in. By Cheapass standards, that’s pretty normal.

Anyway, at the end of the day, it’s a roll and move game where you can sometimes throw rocks at other pawns that makes them go back to start and optional powers depending on what kind of plastic dinosaur you’re using for your pawn. When one of the main twists in the rules is getting forced back to start, that isn’t a good rule in my book.

The selling point (?) of the game is that the board is huge. It’s made of sixteen sections that you have to hold together (post it notes on the underside are recommended) and is close to three feet long. The completed board shows a winding path that forms the shape of a dinosaur skull.

Back in 1996, Bitin’ Off Hedz was an ambitious physical design, particularly for a self-publisher. Time has not been kind. Sixteen black and white pages of illustration on poor quality paper falls short of even PnP standards, particularly paired with a subpar rules.

However, these days, I am more forgiving of Bitin’ Off Hedz. Not in and of itself but for its place in the history of Cheapass Games. I knew it was an early game but I hadn’t realized how early it was when I first tried it.

From that standpoint, I view the game as an experiment, James Ernst still figuring out what would work with the Cheapass format. I find it telling that the next time he made a roll-and-move game, Devil Bunny Needs A Ham, it was smaller, quirkier and a much tighter design. Multiple pawns and a claustrophobic board, that game offers more choices on top of a really silly theme.

Bitin’ Off Hedz isn’t a good game. But it may have been a necessary step to figuring out what makes Cheapass work.

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