Category Archives: Game Reviews

Game Review: Deal or Duel

Deal or DuelThe tremendous success of a Broadway play has prompted a surge in products related to Alexander Hamilton. Deal or Duel: An Alexander Hamilton Card Game is one of those, but it’s also a fun and worthwhile game in its own right. One need not know anything about Hamilton in order to play the game, but it makes it that much more interesting if one has some inkling about some of the characters (face cards). Most cards have some sort of trivia (perhaps something about the person on the card) or a little narrative (like on Monopoly cards) that have absolutely nothing to do with game mechanics but do make the product much more interesting, entertaining, and sometimes (for me) educational. It’s a game of strategy, sabotage, greed, and dueling, and you’ll love it.

My playtesting group consisted of six players (the game requires two to six), male and female, ages twenty to thirty-nine, all of whom enjoy a variety of game types. From the moment I opened the box for the first time to the end of the game was about two hours, which isn’t bad for learning to set up and play a new game at max capacity, and we were entertained throughout. No one read any of the cards ahead of time to get an idea of what was coming, and we were quite surprised when a couple Hamilton cards (you’ll know what they are when you read the rules) demolished everyone early on. We don’t think that’s normal and likely due to poor shuffling of a brand new and organized deck of cards, but it didn’t kill them game either—it just made us play smarter.

We noticed a few things that could be improved. The game comes with a paper mat for play organization, which is helpful but too small for proper placement of cards when dueling. (It’s not a big deal. We just had cards overlapping to make sure they were in the correct spots to start.) The rules state that used Hamilton cards go on the bottom of the pile, but we found a discard pile to be much easier to us, and used the open spot above the Hamilton card slot on the mat for this. The rules make no mention of a discard pile for face cards, but some Hamilton cards require them to be discarded, as opposed to the “Debtor’s Prison” that is sufficiently explained and has a large spot on the mat. We created a discard pile (from which face cards never recover) in the last free spot to keep track of them. Noting and distinguishing discarding face cards from prison should be addressed in the rules, but we made it work as we assume it was supposed to be handled (unless “discard” meant go to prison, which is articulated in a different way on different cards). There is also the possibility that one has no playable cards on one’s turn, which the rules again do not address. Do we discard one and draw another? Do we lose a turn? This is quite ambiguous given play order in the rulebook, so that certainly needs clarification. The variety of cards and types leaves this as an unlikely possibility, but we ran into it on the last turn just as I won *flex*, meaning upon the player’s next turn there may have been a problem with the inability to play if no cards could be played beforehand, which would likely have been the case.) In the grand scheme, these are minor issues that can be thought through and worked around, but should be addressed.


Overall, we had a great time and would (will) play it again.


*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Game Review: Punderdome®, by Jo and Fred Firestone

PunderdomeLet’s not waste any time: Punderdome®, by Jo and Fred Firestone, is the worst game I’ve ever played. Ever. I play tested this with eight people last night who agreed to be guinea pigs for this review. As I opened the box and began reading the instruction card, I felt like we were following the first instructions perfectly:

Assembling Players
In order to play Punderdome, you’ll need to gather at least two or more of your most pun-tolerant friends and/or relatives. Inform them they are about to play this game with you. Apologize later.

This is some of the worst marketing, but seriously honest in anticipating players’ reactions. (Games are meant to be enjoyable and fun, remember?) I apologized after making them endure just three rounds of misery before we moved on to other games.

Apparently some comedians have a live game show on which this “card game” is based. Perhaps that New York venue and atmosphere a more aptly suited for the awkward performer and audience participation in the creation of uncomfortable puns, but a home based game will find few homes and audiences willing to endure the test.

Never mind that the game doesn’t even come with everything you need to play, it’s horribly unoriginal and lacks the input of anyone with experience in game mechanics. The only redeeming quality, and by that I mean it is in no way redeeming, is that it’s simply a flagrant combination of two beloved games that have found their way into the hearts of many family gamers.

Imagine, if you will, Apples to Apples® and Scattergories® get sloshed at an office holiday party and a series of unfortunate events lands them both inside the same dark supply closet filled with a suffocating aroma of industrial cleaners and mildewed mops and rags. The space is cramped and the air toxic, but for these two debauchery-fueled household names it’s intoxicatingly arousing. Nine months and several lawsuits later, a convent receives a knock at the door. The elderly, bent abbess slowly opens the door to find something unrecognizable, yet familiar, swaddled in a stale blanket. Though she’s never had children and doesn’t know the first thing about raising an infant, she believes hiding it in the catacombs and educating it by candlelit solitude will properly prepare it for an introduction to twenty-first century society upon reaching adulthood. So, with all the love and compassion any parent would have, she presents to the world one summer’s day her gruel-fed child dressed in potato sack burlap and bare feet. Encouraged to make its own way in the world, it’s placed on a bus headed for Wall Street. Upon arrival, the child yells to the Goldman Sachs building, “Which office is mine?” It’s mostly ignored, but a few suits look on in wonderment, baffled by the child’s tenacity and naivety. It’s then that a neighboring homeless man feels compassion for the child, pulls out a five-gallon bucket and piece of cardboard, and sets up a makeshift desk and chair. He folds a piece of paper to make a nameplate for the cardboard desk and asks, “What should I write.” The child responds, “Punderdome.” And that’s where, to this day, the child sits participating in the global market.

My wife loves puns. She intentionally uses them more than anyone I know, and it is for her that I got this game to review. She’s also much more concerned about others’ feelings than am I when it comes to my reviews. I remind her that they are reviews of things, not their authors, and that people should have access to real, honest, and raw perspectives to help them in their potential purchasing decisions. (If you’re new to reading my reviews, there’s your heads-up on what to expect.) Still, she’d rather I not publish my little story above because it may hurt the comedians’ feelings. (Yup, you read that correctly.) However, upon reading the game’s play examples, she exclaimed, “These aren’t puns! … These aren’t even funny!” Exactly. The “punniest” person I know doesn’t even like the well thought out examples used to entice one to play the game. (Okay, she said two of them were clever even if not funny, but that she couldn’t take a whole game of them. She reminded me of this when I read this paragraph to her. See? More compassion.)

Please. Just say no. Friends don’t let friends play Punderdome®.


*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.