Full disclosure: A review copy of Bugs on Rugs was provided by Kids Table Board Gaming.
New year, another new game — I think I’ll eventually get to write up the Gen Con games I bought myself, but … hopefully before next Gen Con? Who knows. Either way, this week we’re looking at another KTBG release (we’ve already checked out Problem Picnic: Attack of the Ants on the site and quite liked it), Bugs on Rugs, designed by Peter Hayward (who also did a lot of work on The Lady and the Tiger series, another thing we’ve enjoyed at the site).
In Bugs on Rugs, you’re, well, looking at bugs and looking at rugs. Some bugs like bugs, some bugs like rugs, some rugs like bugs, but absolutely no rugs like rugs. We’re not sure why that is; our best scientists are lost for cause. The bugs start on the floor but you’ll be picking them up and adding them to your collection. Be careful! One escapes each round and something weird happens once it hits the wall. Will you be able to collect the most bugs?
Pretty much none, setup-wise. Set aside a scoresheet, and give the first player token to one player:
Now, you just need to shuffle the cards:
Break them into equal stacks, placing the End card on top of the right stack:
- 2 players: 3 stacks, place the End card on top of the middle stack.
- 3 players: 2 stacks, place the End card on top of the bottom stack.
- 4 players: 3 stacks, place the End card on top of the bottom stack.
- 5 players: 4 stacks, place the End card on top of the bottom stack.
Once you’ve done that, you’re basically ready! Give each player a card to form their starting hand, flip one card over next to the deck to form the wall, and then flip over X cards into the center, face-up, where X is twice the number of players, plus one. Assign a start player and you’re ready to go!
A game of Bugs on Rugs is played over several rounds until the End Card is revealed. Basically, it’s a light drafting game where all the cards are face-up, so you can see what people are taking into their (private) hands. This means you’re gonna want to keep track of what they’re picking up.
On your turn, take a card from the center and add it to your hand, simple as that. The only card with abilities is the Larva, which just allows you to discard two from your hand and take any one bug from the Wall.
Once there’s only one bug left, it’s placed on the wall, and its wall ability activates. They have various abilities like forcing players to pass a card to the right or left (or discard to the center) or letting players gain new bugs from the Wall or the deck. There’s a good variety.
If the End card is revealed as a result of a Wall ability, the next round will be the last round. Otherwise, refill the center to twice the number of players plus one and start a new round! If you reveal the End card doing that, the round you’re beginning will be the last round.
After the last round, score the cards in your hand:
- Butterflies score 1 point for each card you only have 1 of. Note that if you only have 1 Butterfly, it counts itself.
- Fireflies score 1 point for each differently-colored rug in your hand. Mosquitoes have no rug, because they’re garbage bugs.
- Spiders can eat a Fly in your hand and score 7 points. That Fly is discarded and doesn’t count for (or against) other cards’ scoring effects.
- Larva can eat a Mosquito in your hand and score 3 points. That Mosquito is discarded, similar to a Fly.
- Flies are just worth 2 points each, if they’re not eaten by Spiders. That’s okay, I guess?
- Ants like to travel in colonies. If you have the most Ants, each Ant is worth 5 points. Second-most? Each is worth 3. Otherwise, each Ant is worth 1 point. Ties are friendly; all tied players score without affecting other scoring tiers.
- Beetles hate being odd, for some reason. If you have an even number of Beetles, each is worth 5 points. Otherwise, each is worth 2 points.
- Ladybugs are just weird. If you have four Ladybugs, they’re collectively worth 25 points. If not, they’re worth 1 point each. Hopefully you can hit that spot perfectly.
- Mosquitoes are worthless. And, in the game, they also score 0 points! However, a pair of Mosquitoes can be used as a copy of any bug you already have in your hand, if you have a pair.
The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
The major difference is how many of each card you use, as you might guess. At a lower player count it’s kind of easy to remember which cards your opponent has taken, which, being real doesn’t make for a terribly exciting game, but at higher player counts it’s much harder to do that, meaning your strategy might just be to focus on getting the best possible cards that you can and, say, watching the Ants or Ladybugs to make sure they aren’t getting too aggressively taken by one player. I’d say personally, I prefer it at higher player counts but it’s a cute family-weight game so it’s not bad playing with younger folks at low player counts.
- Keep an eye on the Ants. If any one player runs away with them, they’ll get 5 points per Ant. That can be huge (the only thing bigger is the Ladybugs), so, make sure that doesn’t happen, especially if they’re hoarding Beetles at the same time. Can’t let them get that many points.
- If you can, try to stop someone getting four Ladybugs. If you can’t, try to help them get extras once they’ve got four. Taking them might be worth it (see below), but it’s not worth taking too many. Instead, consider giving them all the Ladybugs; even the ones they don’t want. Then, they get stuck with very low-value cards that are almost impossible to get rid of. It’s a cruel thing to do, but it’s fun, and that’s what the game is about.
- Remember that Spiders need Flies. You can really frustrate another player by taking all the Flies if you see them gathering Spiders, since they’re still worth something to you, whereas Spiders on their own are not worth any points. Again, cruel, but fun.
- Mosquitos are mostly useless unless you have an even number. They can still be good for one thing, and that’s feeding to Larva, but if you don’t have any then make sure you don’t get stuck with just one. It’s an excellent thing to pass to your opponent at the end of the last round.
- So are Beetles. I mean, two points per Beetle isn’t that bad, but it’s definitely not good. Again, though, another fun card to pass to your opponent if you manage to remember if they’ve taken the right (or wrong) number of Beetles … If not, well, then don’t do that.
- Sometimes it’s worth taking bad cards to boost the value of your Butterflies or Fireflies. Having one of everything is really great if you’ve got a few singles and then a BUNCH of Butterflies / Fireflies. Those can be great ways to massively boost your score, though, I think Ants are probably the most reliable, since getting more of them is Always Good.
- I would recommend against the Ladybug’s Wall Power. It kind of indiscriminately gives players additional cards, which may be good for everyone, but you don’t want good for everyone; you want good for you, exclusively. This sometimes means that it might be better if something marginally bad happens to everyone, and you’re just gonna have to make sure that that marginally bad thing happens.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Very cute art. It’s quite endearing and works well for this game, and I’m not even a huge bug person.
- Very consistent within the brand. I’ve played Haunt the House and Problem Picnic, and this fits quite well within the rest of the offerings from the company. They’re definitely going for the “a bit too old for HABA but let’s not break out Terraforming Mars or whatever yet” crowd, and it’s a good fit for them. It’s nice to see when a publisher has a solid understanding of their audience.
- Plays quickly. A game’s like, 20 minutes?
- It can fit in a collection with Sushi Go. The major concern with a pure drafting game, in my opinion, is how it holds up next to a really solid gateway drafting game like Sushi Go Party. I could see Bugs on Rugs going a similarly expansive route, in time, but I think in the moment it’s comparable to the original Sushi Go. The major differences are the open drafting (which changes the game a lot) and the Wall Abilities, which cause the rounds to be more interesting (and can compel players to take cards they may otherwise leave behind). Those differences are substantial enough for these games to not occupy the same space in a collection, and that’s good!
- Small footprint / easy to transport. The box is small and the game doesn’t take up a lot of space, so that’s all nice, as well. A solid game to take with you, since it really is just cards.
- Giving players the opportunity to influence the end-of-round effect is a nice way to boost interactivity. Sure, the final player gets the “choice”, but I’ve frequently left them two of the same card as the penultimate player, and so on. It’s a nice extra bit to throw into a drafting game, and I like how well it works, here. Simple, but effective.
- Seems expandable. There are lots of bugs. We never even got worms or centipedes or etc. I could see a lot of places where this could be added on to (or made modular) to add variety.
- A Spider is only worth 7 points??? Missed opportunity there. Something something “game balancing” something something “making sure the points given make sense” something something “artificially inflating the scores for a joke isn’t sound game design”.
- A quick reference card would go a long way. Each bug has its own Wall ability and scoring condition, so having something like the little cards that Sushi Go Party! has or a player reference seems like it would be a pretty easy way to overcome the mild hump that is learning the rules for new players. It’s not the worst, currently, but there’s some confusion, frequently.
- I’m never a huge fan of memory games, so it would be nice if the players had a few more private cards or something to disincentivize me trying to memorize their entire hand. I could see a few people I used to play with getting really obnoxious about this, so, I’m generally somewhat opposed to it. If you had a few more random cards at various parts of the game, it could prevent that, but that would require rebalancing the entire game, so that’s not really a workable solution. Oh well; hopefully your players aren’t as aggravated about games with a memory element as I am, apparently.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall, Bugs on Rugs is a solid, quick little game. Fans of drafting will appreciate a few spins on the traditional take, in that you draft face-up cards from the center, and players that want a bit more than just “take a bunch of cards and hope you took the best ones” will appreciate the powers that affect all players at the end of each round. Having players be in charge of remembering what cards their opponents have taken is a bit annoying, sure, but I’m sure it would be even more annoying if you had players attempting to count everyone’s total scores before they take a card and aggressively min-maxing during play, so I’m mostly fine with the hidden cards. I think it’s a firm enough foundation that I would be surprised if this is the last we’ve seen of Bugs on Rugs, also, as there are again, plenty of bugs. Either way, if you’re looking for a quick, light drafting game or you love gateway drafting games a lot, I enjoyed Bugs on Rugs, and you likely will, too!