Friday, November 27, 2020

Lifeguard is not bad but that might not be enough

 I’ll be honest. While I look at every entry in PnP contests and download them, the low ink, low construction games are the ones that get made right off the bat. (Larger games require consideration) Which is why I’ve already tried out Lifeguard: Surf and Rescue. It’s a Roll and Write that consists of one page of play sheet and one page of rules. I duplexed it and laminated and was done in one sheet of paper.

Lifeguard is all about rescuing drownings surfers. In addition to the play sheet, you will need something to write with and a couple of dice. Yes, this game has a really low buy-in requirements. 

The actual board is a grid. You set up the game by rolling the dice and then spending the pips on resources (which consist of three different ways to manipulate dice, ranging from +/- 1 to refills) After that you roll the dice and place drowning surfers on those coordinates. You can adjust the difficulty by adding or subtracting and drowning people.

Okay, here’s how you play. Roll two dice. Choose one of them and draw a line straight up from the X axis until you hit the other number on the Y axis. Then drawn a straight line to the left. If you touch any drowning surfers, you save them. If you can’t, use resources to adjust the dice until you can. Save all the surfers and you win. Use up all your resources and you lose. Scores are based on how efficiently you rescue drowning surfers.

I have to admit that I read the rules wrong the first time I tried to play. Based purely on my own preconceptions, I assumed you were drawing a diagonal line, not a right angle. And that made the game literally impossible. Getting the rules right made quite a difference.

Honestly, the game was better than I expected but I went in with very low expectations and a misunderstanding that broke the game. My favorite part of the game is the dice manipulation, which is clear and cleanly laid out.

But the big problem the game has is that it’s too easy. After a decent handful of games, the only time I lost was when I rolled a four to buy resources. I feel pretty sure that rolling a six or better (and you do get a mulligan) will give you enough resources to win the game. And a d6 is small enough that a little dice manipulation can go a long way.

Too easy isn’t an absolute deathknell for a game. I still periodically play Solitaire Spellbook Swapping from last year’s solitaire contest still comes out. It’s easy to solve but it’s an amusing  puzzle. But it’s the exception to the rule.

Being easy to pull together can be an underrated virtue in PnP games and one I keep in mind when recommending games to folks who don’t normally PnP. However when it’s a game’s strongest point, it’s not the best.

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