Full disclosure: A review copy of Crazy Tower was provided by Luma Imports.
For some reason, my writer’s block today has been hellish. I’ve been sitting at the computer just … staring at this blank page in WordPress that’s just labelled “INTRO”. I figured if I stream-of-consciousness’ed it, I might have a bit more success getting something written. And once you’ve got something, you can get the right thing written. Maybe I’ll delete this; probably not. Either way, that’s reviewing, for you. A few weeks ago Luma Imports graciously sent me another box of six of their games, including Crazy Tower, Dominations, Rallyman GT, and some others. I’ll be covering those for the next while, so, get excited if you’re into that. Some of those games are a bit longer than my usual, but, I always wanted to try Dominations, so, I’m going to do that. Anyways, onto Crazy Tower.
In Crazy Tower, you’re trying to achieve hectic heights with friends as you attempt to get all of your pieces onto the tower before it collapses (it almost always collapses). While that alone would be challenging, restrictions on where and how you can play pieces are sure to further confound you. Thankfully, you can rely on your friends to help you out, right? Wrong. This game also features a Saboteur mode, in which one player can take on the others to try and topple the tower on their turn. Will you manage to reach this stressful summit?
Not a lot. Find a floor card with no special symbols on it and place it in the center:
Give each player a set of shapes (two sets, if you’re playing with only two players):
You’re basically ready to start!
The game is pretty simple. On your turn, you may play a block onto the card, or flip a new card and place it on top of an existing block, and then play a block on top of it. You may not play a block such that it covers a red space, but your blocks may hang off the edge of the card, if you want. They just have to lie flat.
Certain spaces on cards will give you a wealth of abilities; some give you an extra turn, others let you return an opponent’s block from anywhere in the tower, and some let you swap one of your blocks for an opponent’s block (of their choice). Just make sure if you’re removing a block the tower remains stable!
The game ends as soon as the tower falls. The player who knocked the tower down loses, and the remaining players check their scores. Each “block” in a piece is worth 1 point. The smallest block is 1 point; the three-block pieces are worth 3, the four-block pieces are worth 4, and the big corner shape that has five blocks in it is worth 5 points. Sum the points for your remaining blocks and the player with the lowest score wins!
In addition to a solo variant, there’s also a Saboteur Mode! In Saboteur Mode, one player is designated (or volunteers) to be the Saboteur for the game, trying to bring the tower down! The problem is, if it falls on their turn, they lose and the other players win! It’s sort of a 1 v. all dexterity game at that point; see how it changes up the way you play! (It will, a lot.)
Player Count Differences
Beyond the fact that the solo variant exists, there aren’t that many differences at various player counts. Inevitably, as the player count increases your chances of successfully placing all your pieces may drop, as players might just start building single-piece levels, which is tough to follow up on. The game is a bit harder for the Saboteur at higher player counts, since there are so many players working together against them, but honestly, you don’t need a Saboteur to make a dexterity game challenging for some players, so I haven’t noticed the edge mattering that much. It’s a quick-and-simple stacking game, so, I’m inclined to say I don’t really have a preference for player counts or modes. I enjoy Saboteur mode from time to time, and the basic mode is fun and dynamic enough to keep me engaged as well.
- If you’re playing with a Saboteur, the players before the Saboteur should basically play cooperatively to make the tower as stable as possible. The Saboteur can only do so much if you’re consistently adding multi-block levels to it. Plus, up to three of you take your turns before the Saboteur will! At two players, you’re essentially both the Saboteur, so, just kind of do whatever. It’s you versus them.
- If you’re the Saboteur, try to make sure the tower is unstable, yes, but don’t let it fall. If it falls on your turn, you lose. There are lots of ways you can make the tower unstable, but a really good one is just gradually shifting it in one direction. Eventually, the weight alone will bring it down unless players work actively to counterbalance. But that’s extremely difficult to do well, and they’re equally likely to knock it down while trying to do that. Just make sure you’re still playing safely for yourself.
- Otherwise, if there’s no Saboteur, just play as horribly as your heart dreams. I’ve seen players build lower levels on just their single block; forcing essentially every subsequent level to be only one block and highly unstable. It’s cruel, but risk and reward are the same thing when your goal is to topple a tower, I suppose.
- A great thing to do is wait until a player has only their one-block piece left, and then swap a big piece of yours for their smallest piece. The ol’ switcheroo is expected, but frustrating for them. Hilarious for you, though! And that’s the kind of energy you need to bring to this game.
- Returning opponents’ blocks is also a great move for keeping them from gaining too much momentum. It essentially costs them an extra turn. At some point, you’re mostly guaranteed the tower is going to fall (just because it’s getting too tall), so it might also be nice to try and increase their score so that you can potentially win.
- Be careful building the tower too much off-center. Like I said, great Saboteur strategy, but tough one to do for a long time. Eventually, it’s just going to tilt that way. Levers and all that.
- I usually try to get rid of my biggest blocks first, if I can. It lowers my score, helps me be more agile, and usually gets rid of a piece that my opponents would happily return to me, if they could (but they can’t; it’s usually too critical to the tower’s foundation).
- That said, placing the one-block piece can often really mess your opponent up, if there aren’t good spots to place other blocks as a result. They usually have to build on top of it, which, as I mentioned earlier, basically ruin’s the tower’s long-term stability. Again, very funny, but dangerous.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I do continue to love stacking games. They’re pretty much always fun for me, because I think I just love watching the tower fall once it gets too top-heavy. It’s a rush?
- Even the Saboteur mode is interesting; it plays pretty differently from the core game. There’s a doujin game called Babel that’s a social deduction stacking game that has some similar things going for it, but you don’t know who the Saboteur is. It’s very different, but very interesting. This is not the same as that. This one, you can scheme openly and twirl your evil mustache while your heroic counterparts band together to stop you. It’s all about the spectacle, in this one, and I also appreciate that.
- The solo challenges are also really interesting. They’re really hard! I mean, the more you think you can do, the more impressed I’ll be. But I don’t see a lot of solo challenges for dexterity games. I like that this one thought to include them for that crowd.
- I like that they’re flexible about the more common building rules. It’s interesting that your block doesn’t totally have to be on the card to be valid, and that the cards don’t have to line up with each other. Makes the tower a lot more dynamic, in my opinion.
- I also like that you can activate special powers on the cards. It means the flow of the game is always going to be pretty lively and variable. And while I love Catch the Moon, it kind of always plays the same way, right? This is a bit more dynamic, which is nice sometimes.
- The bright colors make the game look great, too. It’s a very vibrant game, which I think is what they were going for. Aesthetically, it works really well for the game. Top marks.
- Pretty easy to learn. You just stack the blocks; that’s about it. Some special powers, I suppose.
- Plays pretty quickly. That tower is not going to stay up forever. Not if I have anything to do with it. You can usually get through a game of this in 15m or less, I’d say.
- Don’t love the name “Crazy Tower”. Been trying to cut “crazy” from my common diction, but it’s taking some work. Seems like there are plenty of other synonyms that could have gone in, instead.
- I think it’s Weirdly Long Box Week on What’s Eric Playing?. Between this and Villagers, nothing fits on my shelves. It’s very irritating. It’s more space-efficient relative to the contents, but man, these long boxes are hard to make work with my packing strategy.
- It might be nice to have a couple double-sided Designated Start Cards rather than have to dig through the deck for a suitable card. This is mostly just my general grief with Unmarked Starter Cards; I always end up shuffling them all together and then realizing I need to comb through the pile for a starter card without any special abilities and then I have to re-shuffle. It’s vaguely annoying, hence the Meh.
- The “immediately take another turn” cards feel a bit swingy, to me. It can be wildly helpful, if you get it at the right time. I suppose at other times it puts a huge target on your back, but being able to combo off of yourself is usually a great thing to have happen.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I think Crazy Tower is solidly fun! As I mentioned, not in love with the name, but the experience is a good, solid, and silly one. I like the openly many vs. one Saboteur Mode, since it lets players trash talk while trying to play a dexterity game, which is something we already do. We do so much of that. But now the game encourages it! Plus, the game is pretty designed to be vibrant. The colors are bold and bright, the floor cards have fun abilities that are pretty randomly distributed, and there’s a lot of good player interaction in those experiences. I think especially for younger players, this is going to be a solid family spin on your Jenga-style games, or a great place to move to when you want a bit more complexity than Animal upon Animal. I think it might be a bit swingy, but I’m not sure the game … cares? It doesn’t seem like that’s a problem they’re particularly trying to optimize for, I suppose. It seems very much like they’ve tapped into their ideal experience with the game, and it shows through the subtle touches, like the intense number of Solo Challenges. It’s a particularly well-designed experience, and if you’re looking for a fun and social stacking game, I’d definitely recommend checking out Crazy Tower!