Monday, December 19, 2022

Finding an old mechanic in a different medium

Bank or Bust is a Push-Your-Luck Roll-and-Write from Dark Imp. Their mission statement is to create multi-generational family games and they also have a focus on classroom viable games. That means Dark Imp focused on making accessible game that anyone could play.

This is the core idea of the game: you’ve got a track with spaces. (Everyone is moving along their own version since it’s an PnP multi-solitaire so you all have your own player sheet.) Each turn, a die is rolled. If anything but a six is rolled, everyone still in moves that many spaces. A six means you bust. And, of course, you can drop out before the roll and get the points for the space you’re on.

And if that were it, Bank or Bust would just be a bust. I mean, we are talking about a core mechanic that is the eptome of basic, bare bones push-your-luck.

So here’s the clever bit. When you decide to stop and take your points, you can either bank them (you know, as points) or you can spend them on special powers. These include one-time powers of flipping a six or ongoing powers like your pawn starting a five instead of zero.

Some of the special powers create some weird  possible gameplay circumstances. Players have five bust boxes and one game ending condition is one player running out. But you can buy more, changing that math. The special powers can add some indirect interaction in the game that otherwise is multiplayer solitaire.

So, what do I actually think of the game?

Well, even with the special powers, it is very, very simple. In particular, just rolling one die really flattens the odds and makes the actual choices less interesting. Can’t Stop is even simpler but pairing four dice and making decisions based on the bell shaped curve of two dice creates deeper choices.

I also think that theoretically unlimited number of players falls apart due to the indirect interactions. I think six players makes more sense. That’s not a criticism, that’s just a consideration for classroom use.

On the plus side, Bank or Bust is a very accessible game on multiple fronts. It’s easy to print off. It’s easy to teach. It’s easy to get a game going, even with folks who aren’t into gaming.

However, the biggest plus is that Bank or Bust isn’t filling out a grid or a check list. I have a lot of PnP multi-player solitaire options. But this one brings Push-Your-Luck to the medium.

Bank or Bust doesnt reinvent the wheel. It’s not an innovative game. It definitely has its flaws. But it gives me something new classroom, video conference and casual play.

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