|Game Name:||enDANGERed Orphans of Condyle Cove||Published Year:||2016|
|Game Publisher:||Certifiable Studios||Player Scale:||2 – 4|
|Game Designer:||Jesse Labbe||Run Time:||5 – 40 mins|
Condyle Cove is a dark and dreary place. Stark and devoid of both colour and life. It’s even more desperate if you are an orphan. Alone, tired, dirty and afraid, struggling to survive and the odds of that…well, they weren’t great to begin with and they just keep getting worse.
In enDANGERed Orphans each player is a nameless orphan struggling to survive, you’ll wonder through Condyle Cove seeking refuge and safety where you can, using up your limited Options to try and stay afloat. When you’re out of Options, the shadows part and the Bogeyman gets you. If you find yourself running low on Options and truly desperate, you can always visit the menacingly named Kiddie Corner (or cul-de-sac) at the centre of the map and try an Act of Desperation, to breathe some limited life back into your game, but even that isn’t guaranteed. As you could always uncover the Bogeyman him/her/itself and be lost to the void forever. Mwahahahahahaha!
Okay, so this game may sound a little morbid and depressing thematically, and you would be kind of right, but let me put it this way:
Imagine Tim Burton had a nightmare and turned it into a board game with a Peanuts-esque artwork.
Interested now I bet, and now you’ve got the right feel for this game.
Playing the game
There are three types of cards in the game. Options – cards that you can play to give you bonuses or be detrimental to your opponents, these also form your life-deck. Cove cards form the map of Condyle Cove, each card has a special ability which will affect any player on the card, and you’ll use these to map out the game area each time you play. Acts of Desperation – as the name suggests these are last ditch attempt cards to stay in the game, most of these are “good” cards, and at least one of them is the Bogeyman. Which is bad. Very bad.
With that all in mind, the rules are very, very simple. Move (if you want to), up to two spaces. Play a card (if you want to), and you can play as many as you like in any order. Draw two cards (either Cove Cards or Option Cards). If you get to the Draw phase and are unable to draw two cards then it is game over for you and you always, always have to Draw two cards. This means that after turn one, you will have to play a card.
Kiddie Corner and the Acts of Desperation (AOD) bring an exciting, and terrifying mini-game of chance into endangered Orphans. You could argue that they are a little swingy, and you’d be right, but a gamble should be swingy. If a player ever starts their turn at Kiddie Corner, they must pick one of the six Acts of Desperation cards. Five of these will reinvigorate their Options deck to varying degrees. One will end their game. The next player to end up here, well, their odds just got a little steeper.
That’s it. That’s the game. This is a player exclusion game, with the last Orphan standing (alone, oh so very alone) being the winner. enDANGERed Orphans is a quick, light game, that is full of player interaction and most importantly; fun. It is simple, slick and doesn’t get in its own way with too many rules (I’ll discuss the rulebook a little later on) or limitations. Simply play a card, do what it says. Make a friend cry perhaps. And move along.
It is all Take-That though, and the game is very competitive, which may not appeal to everyone. You can very clearly see you opponents Options deck deplete like a cardboard hour glass, and you’ll see them grin from ear to ear when they have that one card they need to ruin you (having a good poker-face will really help you out in this game). You’ll start each turn with the seemingly innocuous yet difficult decision about moving. Since many of the Cove cards grants an ability based on where you are, or are not, but you don’t want to stay put for too long. Sure being in the Creek is handy for a while that is until someone plays Swept Away and makes you discard everything. And as much as it is a risk, you don’t want to get too far away from Kiddie Corner, just in case…
The start of your first game, you might play nice. You might start adding to the map instead of immediately causing problems for your fellow orphans. But that won’t last. Soon you’ll be causing cards to be discarded, you’ll be stealing and shuffling other pawns around the board with near reckless abandon. When you play your second game you’ll be a top–class, A-Grade d*ck with a capital “D”, straight out of the gate. What’s more, you’ll have even more fun.
There may come a point in this game that a loss can fall a little flat, when you’re running low-ish on Options, and then, through a series of unfortunate events (read as ‘Dick moves’) you can find yourself without any viable options, no way to get to Kiddie Corner and nothing left in your Options deck. This could just be because the people I play against much prefer watching me figuratively bleed-out, rather than just putting me out of my misery, but I do often feel robbed of a Game End when this comes about.
Now, about the components.
I will start by saying: enDANGERed Orphans has my favourite board game components to date. Not only is the artwork great in its dreary horridness but the pawns are utterly brilliant – painted or not these look and feel great. The neoprene play mats: amazing. The cards themselves are of the highest quality linen finished stock. The box insert fits everything – including the expansions, with fully sleeved cards – all comfortably, perfectly. Even the flippin’ box looks great with its spot UV cover art. I could keep writing words, but you’re better off just looking at this stuff. Really.
Fundamentally, enDANGERed Orphans is a card game. In a basic two or three player game, you can strip the game down to around sixty cards and the standees – which you’ll be able to fit into a deck box. I went with a Flip ‘n’ Tray to fit the expansions and pawns in to make easier to transport, which also adds it to my #LunchBreakGames series.
Bizarrely, it comes with both standees and pawns. This is only bizarre because the pawns are so awesome. I can’t see much use in the standees unless players particularly want to something more specific (since the pawns are both ethnic and gender neutral), like a cat.
There are a few expansions also available; Mr Coleman’s Carnival of Captivating Curiosities, Somewhere Down Lexington Drive, these add a new Cul-de-sac artwork card and different and new Acts of Desperation and some additional standees. Do you need these to expand the game, or get a fuller game experience? No, they just add some more flavour and character. The one expansion that mixes things up significantly is the Last Winter of Benny Harris which comes with the game which includes a new Cove and ability to draw a different type of card Last Winter, which are bonus actions, some of which are very bad against your opponents, some are very bad for you. It’s another mini game, big gamble deck which can make the games a bit longer and a little more fun.
…a little later on
One thing about this game that seems to have caused quite a bit of fuss is the rule book. Is it a very funny, laid-back, jocular and flippant rule book? Yes, yes it is, there is a very good chance you laugh if not smirk when reading it. Is it obtuse, vague and occasionally unhelpful, yeah, it kind of is that too. Yet, as an intelligent, well humoured gamer you’ll get it. The rules are very, very simple:
When you’re out of Options you’re out!
Certifiable Studios have gone with the less is more system here and on the whole it works. If you are a Rule Hound type of gamer…fix yourself a cup of chai tea and find your happy place before opening this rule book. If you can play a game comfortably by playing logically, sensibly then you’ll be fine. This lack of clarity extends to some of the cards too, unfortunately with mixed terminology that again, will upset the thoroughbred rule hounds. Certain Cove card prohibit cards being “Taken” from your hand, but the language on the Options cards uses “Steal” . Another location stops your pawn being moved – but is that moved as in “Moved one/two/three spaces” like the movement phase, or does it include being taken from one cove location and placed on another. As a personal bugbear I would have preferred that the term orphan was used in place of ‘anybody’, or ‘pawn’ or ‘player’ to keep the theme and mechanic more interlocked. A future edition of this game would tighten a lot of these “issues” up quickly and simply, in doing so it making this game more immediately accessible to newer/less experienced or younger gamers.
enDANGERed Orphans is a very completive game, with lots and lots of Take That, which could very easily make you fall out with your friends. It looks utterly amazing, and has set the bar very high for any subsequent games from Certifiable Studios. Ironically, considering the theme of the game, it oozes love and affection from its creators and they have wanted to deliver the very best, most fun product they could. I feel they have succeeded in this. Yes, it is a glorified card game, but, oh. The glory of it!
Great player interaction
Quick and easy rule set
Exciting elements of luck mixed with light strategy/hand management
Full on Take-That game – which some may not like
Player Exclusion –which again, some might not like
The theme may put you off, but stop being a sissy and play it
Occasionally ambiguous card wording
Semi-pointless standees (they still look ace though)
This game was purchased/ backed on Kickstarter at The “GREEDY BASTARDS” Level