Okay. Standard boilerplate. Down is a solitaire, print and play game which means you have to make it yourself (which isn’t hard since it’s nine cards, not much ink and no other components) and can’t play it with anyone else.
The cards are double-sided, which doubles the possible combinations. (Actually, quickly doing the math, it increases by a lot more than that. Math!) Each maze card has five vertical lines. Horizontal lines periodically connect two lines and the lines sporadically have coins, stars, diamonds and hexagons on them. You also have a score card that lets you keep track of your coins and stars.
Here’s how you play. Shuffle up the maze cards, flipping some over to add to the mix, and place the score card sideways at the back of the deck at zero coins and three stars. Start at the top of one of the lines and follow it down with your finger and never stop moving. Every time you come to a horizontal line, you must follow it. Get to the bottom and move to the next card. Diamonds let you change directions. Coins add to your score. Stars add to your stars. Hexagons mean you automatically lose. Get through all eight cards, the game ends and you judge how well you did by your coins
Stars are your real decision point. Spending a star lets you change direction, moving to grab more coins or dodge a hexagon.
The most interesting part of the game is really the hand manipulation. You move the score card back and forth to track coins and up-and-down to track stars (the star track in printed on the side of the maze cards) If you have room, you could discard maze cards when you pass through but you can also put them at the back of the deck, behind the score card. (Which works well for playing while standing)
Honestly, the only tricky part of the game for me was manipulating the cards. But having played a bunch of I Am Lynx helped a lot. (And I am going to pick up Palm Island at some point)
Let’s talk about what Down isn’t. Down isn’t Catan or Terraforming Mars. Down isn’t Friday or Onirim. Down isn’t even Elevenses for One or Micro Rome. There’s no deep choices. It is a very, very light game that is designed to be played anywhere with no space and in almost no time.
With all that in mind, Down does succeed at its very specific goals. A speed solitaire game that can be played with no table is a really, really specific genre. If there are others, I’d like to see them. And, while I suspect it can be improved on, Down works.
I’ve enjoyed playing Down. There’s not much to it but it works as an amusing distraction. It will definitely become a part of my fidget box of solitaire games I keep with me. Sometimes, you don’t have the time or space so it’s nice to still have a game that works.
It’s a nine card PnP game that’s free to download. If it seems vaguely interesting, making a copy to try it out isn’t hard. That’s what’s nice about these tiny PnP games. They’re a tiny investment of time and materials. If it sounds interesting, give it a spin.