Published on March 17th, 2016 | by Nicole Jekich0
Gum-Sized Games to Go!
Pack O Games Returns With More Games on Kickstarter
How can I bring a variety of games with me without lugging around a bunch of heavy boxes? If you ever asked yourself that question, now is a good time to get in on the Pack O Games craze. Pack O Games is a brand of micro games where each game is the size of a small box of gum. Every game features a unique theme, mechanics and complexity and packs 30 cards (1 inch by 3 inch) and an accordion-folded rulebook in a gum-size tuck box. Chris Handy is a long-time game designer who is make. If you want to learn more about why this concept, here is the Pack O Game introduction video:
Luke and I recently received review copies of the four starting games of the Pack O Games Second Set which is currently on Kickstarter. As the campaign states, these set of games are more challenging than the first set and offer medium-weight gameplay for more experienced gamers or people wanting more of a challenge. The first four games are Gym, Rum, Sow and Orc; and just as the campaign promised, these games feature a unique theme and completely different gameplay from each other. The only thing in common is the size of cards and number of components. These games are just 4 of the 9 which are currently available on the Kickstarter campaign. Continuing hit the stretch goals beyond the initial goal will continue to unlock more games.
Gym is definitely our favorite out of the four games. It has a diverse group of students, a variety of strategies and a little bit of nostalgia from elementary days. Even before we set up the game we knew from the packaging and the cards that we would be selecting a team of students just like in grade school. Gym is broken down into two separate phases: Pick and Play. The first phase will have players “Pick” a student from the first lineup of 12 students and add it to their hand to use in the second phase. Players will take turns picking one student. Each time they pick up a bully (as indicated by the single skill and grumpy student expression) that player may move an Event to try and guarantee their favorite sport will be on the schedule. Only 4 of the 6 events (Ping Pong, Weightlifting, Football, Basketball, Dodgeball and Rope Climbing) will actually make it to the Play phase.
Once players have selected a team of 12 players each from the entire deck, then players are ready for the second phase. This “Play” phase will pit your respective teams against each other in the 4 different Events. Players will take turns placing a student on 1 of the 3 slots on their Event side. Players may also use an ability that matches a color. When a player plays a bully, they may move the coach around the board space. A coach that overlooks a game halts any special abilities granted by that specific colored Event. Timing is crucial in Gym as the abilities can move students around the board and even have them switch sides. The final points awarded depends on the different between the winner and loser of each event. I like how players can choose to spread out their students to try and win multiple events by a few points or can focus heavily on dominating in a specific event to rack up more points.
Rum is a variation on rummy where players are competing to collect and turn in matching colored sets of rum. The phases of the game are very simple: a player will draw one card from either of the 3 Beach cards or one cards from the facedown Shipwreck pile. Players are trying to collect the different colored Captain Cards for points. Each time a set is turned in, a player receives the corresponding Captain Card and turns it to show the number of bottles they turned in (the number also represents the number of points a player has). That player now has possession of that Captain Card unless another player turns in a larger set of the same colored bottles.
Rum is a push your luck strategy game because there is a devilish Parrot lurking in the pile that makes players discard bottles of rum from their hand. As the game continues and more cards deplete the pile, it is more likely that the Parrot will pop up and ruin your collection which can definitely hurt when you’re trying to collect the 3 or 4 sets of bottles. This game is very quick as the winner is determined by the first person to accumulate a certain number of points by the end of their turn. All points are public knowledge so coming to the end of the game usually isn’t a surprise. The visual Shipwreck pile is my favorite aspect of Rum but nothing else really excites me about this game. Players are competing to draw the right cards and make plays before they draw the Parrot or are outplayed by opponents. I much prefer the rest of the Pack O Games on this list whose rewards and victory are the result of more strategy and less luck.
Sow is definitely has the most visually interesting set up of all the games as the “board” forms a circle around 4 centralize wheelbarrows. In the game, players are trying to acquire a beautiful bouquet of flowers that will bring the most points at the end of the game. Each player will have a secret goal of a favorite color flower they are trying to collect (hidden under the wheelbarrow).
Players don’t start with flowers, but instead will need to move these seeds around the board just similar to Mancala. Players will take turns picking up the piles with 2 or more cards in it and distribute one card at a time to the subsequent piles. Players can choose which order to distribute the cards. If the last card the player places is a seed, they will flip the card over to its flower side and will flip any other matching colored seeds to their flower side. If the last card the player places is a flower and is under one of the two dirt piles under a player’s wheelbarrow, then the active player can choose a single color and add all flowers that share that color to their bouquet. Players will also be moving around the gopher/watering can and the windmill cards which do special abilities, such as changing the direction of sowing cards or destroying an entire row of flowers, when they are matched in a row.
In practice Sow feels like a longer game than the others especially in the 2 player version. Trying to time when to pick up certain piles and where to distribute cards is just as difficult as playing Mancala. I honestly wanted the 2 player game to end sooner and have use of the other wheelbarrows in game that are normally restricted. The game especially drags in the final turns of the game when there is only a single pile of cards to move.
Orc is another one of my favorites because it the basic gameplay reminds me of Battle Line, but with better visual elements. There are 6 colors of orc territories which players will be fighting to control. Players will take turns placing orcs on their side of the battle line and drawing cards from the stacks next to the different battles. Players will have to play their orcs carefully as their units must be a different color than the territory and the opponent’s orc color. If a stack depletes, the adjacent battle resolves immediately and the side with the most orcs will win that battle. Once a battle resolves, all cards from that battle are removed except for one card. This single card is flipped to its spear side and points to the winner of the battle (a great visual marker!).
What is even better about Orc is the final winner isn’t just determined by the number of battles won, although that does add points to your score, but players also gain points by having orc cards in their hands that match the colored territories they conquered. I enjoy that the cards I didn’t play can have a use in helping me win a game. Pack O Games really shines with using 30 cards in as many ways as possible.
Small Games, Pack Big Punch
Pack O Games are a great product that proves you don’t need a lot of components or large pieces to make a great game. Budding designers can definitely learn a lot by playing Pack O Games as each game is a complete, well-constructed game with a clearly defined concept, theme and victory condition. I personally don’t have an obsession with micro games and I could see many of these Pack O Games being great as full-sized cards or would look great with a colorful game board; however, the size and other restrictions in Pack O Games are exactly the features that construct their identity and make these games a great collectible set. Pack O Games are games that can go with you anywhere and are especially great to kids-who have an easier time picking up the tiny cards. Every single one of these games brings a unique gameplay and visually interesting experience in a small package.
At the time this article launched, Pack-O-Game’s second Kickstarter has already unlocked 5 additional games from their stretch goals. This means any backer that supports at the $24 pledge or higher will receive 9 different Pack O Games! These Pack O Games also have a zippered pouch available to carry all the games in, which is a great way to transport these games around, pack them for traveling or keep them in the car for long road trips or family vacations. If you want event more, the First Set of Pack O Games are also available to buy on the Perplext site if you missed their 2014 campaign.