Rules in life to follow: First of all, never apologise for the use of a terrible pun in the opening of a review. It shows panache! Style! Grace! Second, never turn down the chance to play a game for kids. In both instances, always try such things when the opportunity makes itself available – after all, there’s not that many games out there that are built around the theme of otters aimed at small people. Or any, in fact. New market, yay!
Michael Iachini’s last release, Chaos and Alchemy, was a comparatively heavy affair when lined up to his latest design, a quick to play (and quicker to learn!) card game called Otters. It’s about – surprisingly enough – otters who are looking for new places to play and gambol. Otters, apparently, love to play (seriously, the do, look it up). In Otters, there are nine playgrounds (each represented by a coloured card, so you have three sets of three) that you and your opponent will fight over, three of which will be in play at any one time. Each time play comes round to you, you’ll get to place two cards by the playground (or playgrounds) of your choice. Manage to be the person whose card is the one that helps equal or exceed the total for that playground and you claim it immediately, scoring that amount of points. A new one comes out, and once the last one is taken the game ends. Highest score, as you’d expect, is the winner.
The cards you’ll be using to get your hands on these much desired playgrounds, decorated with otters aplenty, are numbered. There are plenty of ones and twos, plus a smattering of threes, but also a fair few special ability cards that will help you get closer to those target numbers. These will let you throw down an extra card, flip another off the top of the deck or move one otter from one playground to another, but my favourite is undoubtedly the zero-valued Alligator.
Now, while Otters is a simple game, this card brings in a little bit of screwing your opponent over – someone that I encourage in anybody over the age of a couple of months. You see, the Alligator prevents the other player from playing any cards to that spot, so it’s the perfect card to reveal if you’re going get your hands on some of the higher value playground cards. Also, collecting the same colour sets doesn’t just bring you in the points marked on them – getting all three of a kind scores a bonus.
Rounds take a matter of minutes and you’ll have a whole game done in under ten, so it really is a perfect game for children (or grown ups with horrifyingly short attention spans). The whole thing comes in a mere fifty-six cards so it’s super portable, and copies are available for a $12 pledge on Kickstarter. Get yourself a couple of decks and you open up the possibility for a three or four player version of the game which is pretty nice – again, while it’s far from The Campaign for North Africa, it’s an enjoyable way to in extra people for some Otter related larks. And while this may not be the highest game on your wish list, I’d still say go an have a look at the Kickstarter page. Who knows? It could be the game that you get to play with that person who never ever plays anything. Doesn’t matter if they’re a few years old or grumpy grown-up who thinks games are dumb – after all, who doesn’t love Otters?