Full disclosure: A preview copy of Tussie Mussie was provided by Button Shy. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
So this is gonna be a fun block of reviews; for the next five weeks, it’s gonna be one Button Shy game a week, starting with Tussie Mussie and ending with Seasons of Rice. Two Gen Can’t winners and a month of additional games in between sounds like a pretty good time to me, so let’s get right into this one by Elizabeth Hargrave, the (rightfully so) celebrated designer of Wingspan, another game that’s worth checking out if you haven’t already.
In Tussie Mussie, you play as friends, confidants, and lovers exchanging flowers and thoughts using the classic Victorian language of flowers. Every bloom has a meaning and often the petals hide secrets. As you form your bouquets and treasured keepsakes, try to discern the meanings of what you’re being given (and what you’re giving away). Will you be able to see your flower arrangement for its true value? Or are your chances of winning going to wilt?
None. Shuffle the 18 cards:
You’re ready to go! Choose a player to go first:
A game of Tussie Mussie is typically played over three rounds, and the player with the most points at the end of three rounds wins. A typical round is players giving and receiving flowers until they have four, and then scoring. This means each player gets two turns.
On your first turn, you’ll offer flowers to the player on your left. Draw two cards from the deck. Play one face-up and the other face-down. Your opponent must now choose from the two cards. Whichever they choose, they place in front of themselves in a row (adding to the right of the last card they took). Whichever they didn’t choose, you place in front of yourself in a row, again to the right of the previous card you picked.
After everyone has taken one turn, take a second turn, but offering to the player on your right, instead. In a two-player game, you’ll just alternate taking two turns of offering and receiving.
At the end of a round, you should have 4 cards. Some will be face-up, and others will be face-down. Slide the face-down cards down to form their own row, called Keepsakes. Reveal them. The top row is your Bouquets; the bottom Keepsakes. Now score; each card has its own scoring rules:
- Some cards let you draw or flip cards; do that first.
- Any hearts are worth 1 point per heart.
- Some cards gain points for other cards in your arrangement.
Count up and record scores for each player. Play until you’ve completed three rounds; the player with the most points after three rounds wins!
Player Count Differences
Not too many, really. The major thing is that you can see more of the available cards in players’ arrangements at higher player counts, so you can get a better sense of the cards that you might be getting or what’s currently been grabbed, but even that only goes so far? I don’t think I have a strong player count preference for this one.
- Avoid the Marigold if you need your cards. That one tanks one of your cards for two hearts, which might be good (if you have cards that reward you for hearts), but a lot of times it can end up knocking out one of your solid cards, which might cancel out its value.
- I generally try to offer players cards they need. If they see the card you’re offering them face-up, they might go after the face-down card thinking you’re trying to hide an even better card. If that’s the case, hide a worse card there. Honestly, this reminds me a bit of Fickle, but with two-card stacks instead of three-card stacks.
- If you can keep the Carnation hidden, it can be super valuable. It scores based on all your other cards being a different color, so if you grab it then other players won’t know (probably) that you are just collecting a wide variety of other card colors to try and boost your score.
- Orchid is also a strong card. If you’re going for any color-based opportunity, Orchid can help give you more (or less) of the color you want, which is awesome. It also gives you a heart!
- Phlox + Marigold + Red Rose isn’t bad. That’s 8 points (2 Hearts + 2 Hearts + 1 point / Heart). Solid maneuver if you can get all the pieces.
- Hyacinth has a similar benefit to the Carnation. It benefits from getting no Hearts, so if your opponents don’t know you have it, you can just keep taking cards without hearts, which is super handy.
- Offering a Peony face-down to a player who can’t use it is cruel. It gives you +2 points if you have exactly two flowers in your Bouquet. No player without 2 in their Bouquet should knowingly take it, which makes it all the more fun to try and sneak it to someone. It’s mean, but fair. It’s also fun to offer it face-up if you can use it and the other person can’t. Do they risk it and give you a really good card? Or do they take one for the team and block you from getting +2 points at the cost of their own points?
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love the art. Beth will kill me for saying this, but this is an absolutely beautiful set of 18 cards. Even if you end up not liking the game, this is a wonderful gift for any gamer that’s got a green thumb, I think. It’s vibrant, colorful, and it just looks really good on the table.
- Very portable. As you’d expect from a Button Shy game, but I still always appreciate it. I think they’re one of the most consistently portable companies in board gaming.
- Quick to learn. The core gameplay mechanic is fairly simple. You either take the face-up or the face-down card.
- Solidly variable. The cards all combine to create interesting combinations; there are roughly 3060 different arrangements ignoring orientation (so 73,440 with orientation), so, you should have plenty of different combinations that you can try. I wonder what the highest-scoring arrangement is? I bet you could code it up.
- I do appreciate the cards that stay face-down. I think that’s the funnest part of higher player count games; since you don’t get to see a lot of players’ cards, there are players who, if they take every face-down card, you might know legitimately nothing about. That’s kind of exciting, from a gameplay perspective! Keeps things mysterious.
- I also really like the meanings of the flowers on the cards. The game encourages you to say / yell them at each other, which adds a really nice chunk of engagement to the game for me. If Elizabeth Hargrave’s going to make her signature as a designer making the game feel very well-researched and rich, I want to be clear that I’m 100% here for that.
- It helps if you know all the cards. I’m giving this a Meh instead of my usual Con because it’s a Button Shy game, so you only really need to learn 18 cards, but I’m calling it out since it might be useful for you to read through them before you play your first game (something that we specifically did not realize that we should have done, whoops).
- Feels a bit too short? It’s a bit weird that we only get two turns each; I never feel like I have enough time to come up with a coherent strategy, so I just end up doing things.
- Still generally opposed to the “play three rounds” sort of methodology in games. For this one it feels weirdly short if you don’t, since then you only play two turns and that’s the game, but it’s still gently frustrating, for me. It doesn’t seem like other people dislike this particular thing in games as much as I do, but for some reason I do.
- It’s hard for me to feel like I have a ton of agency. Since we’re only dealing in two cards, I don’t ever feel like I have a good grasp on whether or not I’m correctly influencing my opponent to take the thing that I want them to take. Worst case is that they don’t and then I’ve goofed myself on my own turn.
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, Tussie Mussie is a neat little game! I think it’s a bit lighter than I expected, honestly, which is neat as well. On the ever-so-slightly heavier side, there’s Fickle, which has a combination of a three card I-cut-you-choose / press-your-luck system that’s reminiscent of Tussie’s two card system. Tussie Mussie does have a really neat concept and has awesome art, so I’m hoping that if a solo mode emerges, I can get a shot with that. As it stands, though, I think Hargrave is doing some cool work with this one, and it’s quite striking, thanks to Beth’s great flower work, so I’d still definitely recommend it. I wish it felt a bit less short, but I also think that if you’re looking for a very quick I-cut-you-choose game, this is definitely it. It even plays well at two, something that most games I’ve tried in that genre kind of fail at. I think what I’d love to see from this is either more cards available in your arrangements, some sort of round-level event that changes things up a bit, or some additional external variable scoring conditions. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing, anyways. That said, I have had fun with this one, so if you’re looking for a very quick, very light game of arrangements and hidden meanings, Tussie Mussie might be a great fit for you!