#744 – Jackpot Payout [Preview]

Base price: $XX.
1 – 4 players.
Play time: ~30 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Check it out on Kickstarter! (Will update link when Kickstarter is live.)
Logged plays: 3 

Full disclosure: A preview copy of Jackpot Payout was provided by Puzzling Pixel Games. 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. 

It’s a festival, essentially; a Kickstarter festival, that is. Lots of games coming down the pipeline this week, so I’ve got two Kickstarter titles for your benefit. The first is going to be Jackpot Payout, and the second is Pilfering Pandas! I’m always excited to try some new Kickstarter games; it feels like a cool way to get to see new stuff before it’s actually released, which is a nice way to see how folks are experimenting with new mechanics or new spins on old ones. Anyways, let’s get to Jackpot Payout!

In Jackpot Payout, you’re fixing to win big in the slots! At least, you hope so. One can never predict what might actually end up on those three little dials. Unfortunately, you and your friends have turned this into a little high-stakes competition, and only one of you is going to be able to walk away as a high roller. This is mostly for status, but will you be able to win big? Or will the house win, as usual?

Contents

Setup

To kick off setup, give each player a player board:

As is the case with many deckbuilders, each player should be given a starting deck:

After doing that, you’ll need to decide which set of cards you want to use. There are red cards and blue cards, and each color has Introductory Cards and Expert Cards. Choose any or all sets (as long as you have at least one Introductory and one Expert set) and shuffle them together:

Once you’ve done that, reveal the top 7 cards to form the Display. Make a 2 x 4 area of them, setting the Colorless Wilds stack in the eighth spot:

After doing that, take the coins and create the Bank:

The Bank’s size depends on your player count:

  • 1 player: 25 coins
  • 2 players: 18 coins
  • 3 players: 25 coins
  • 4 players: 30 coins

After doing that, shuffle your starting deck and you should be ready to start! Note: do not draw any cards. You only draw cards at the start of your turn!

Gameplay

Your goal in Jackpot Payout is precisely that: you want a massive payout from hitting the jackpot. Thankfully, that’s not too complicated!

On your turn, you first draw three cards, flipping them face-up into the spaces on your player board. If your deck does not have three cards remaining, reveal the cards in your deck and then shuffle your discard pile to become your new deck. Some cards may have additional text or instructions on them! If that’s the case, you may follow those instructions in whatever order you please. That might matter or affect other actions, so it also helps if you invoke the name of the card before you perform whatever action is on it.

After completing the actions on your cards (if any), check the icons. If all three cards have the same symbol on them (wilds [?] count as any symbol), you’ve hit the jackpot! The crowd goes wild. When you do, score the three cards on your player board by removing them from the game and taking the number of coins displayed on the card from the bank and adding them to your score area. If you score the jackpot, your turn immediately ends after doing this.

If you did not get a jackpot, you may gain a card from the display to your discard pile and then reveal a new card in the display, with some caveats:

  • If you have a pair of the same symbol (again, including wilds) on your player board, you may take any red card or any blue card.
  • If you have two pairs of symbols, you may take any two red cards, any two blue cards, or one red and one blue card.
  • Otherwise, you may take any blue card.
  • You may always take a Coinless Wild instead of any other red or blue card.

After taking a card from the display, your turn ends.

The game ends when the Bank runs out of coins or when a player starts their turn with 6 or fewer cards between their deck and discard pile. After that player finishes their turn, move on to the Final Showdown.

In the Final Showdown, players bet it all on one massive jackpot! Starting with the player with the fewest coins, players will reveal three cards from their deck. If all three symbols match, they score the three cards and then reveal again! This continues until they reveal three cards whose symbols do not all match (or until they cannot reveal three cards). If a player reveals three cards whose symbols do not all match, they tally their final score based on the number of coins in their score pile. If the bank would run out of coins during this phase, use the coins that were set aside at the beginning of the game as well.

The player with the most coins wins!

Player Count Differences

Jackpot Payout changes a fair bit as player counts shift; at lower player counts, players aren’t really reaping the benefits of too many highly-interactive cards, nor are they likely taking enough cards to see a lot of shift in the market over time. This can lead to market stagnation (a problem with random market games at lower player counts more generally), where no card in the market is desirable for any player and there’s no good way to refresh that. A few cards help address this, but if they don’t come up, you can get decently stuck. This stagnation problem is addressed slightly at higher player counts, as there are more players who can pull from the market on the turns that take place between your turns, meaning there’s potential for more cards to get taken. That said, there’s also the chance that they continually only take the newest card, meaning you’re left with the dregs again, but that’s unlikely; players may want to specialize in certain symbols to increase their chances of jackpots occurring, and if they’re doing that, there aren’t enough symbols in the game that players could specialize in one or two and still see the market stagnate (unless everyone’s fighting over diamonds or something). I do quite enjoy this game at two players, but I think it benefits from a higher player count a bit more. That could change, however, if they introduce some cards that work best in a two-player game (similar to how the Introductory and Expert sets exist).

Strategy

  • Are you going for jackpots or aren’t you? There are some cards that reward players for missing out on jackpots. If that’s the route you want to go, then mixing up your symbols is probably the right move. If you’re going for the high-value jackpots (it’s possible to essentially end the game in one turn if you draw two jackpot-doublers and a 4-coin card, for instance), then you should go deep on getting multiple of the same symbol or the wild cards to boost your chances. Either way, it’s likely not a bad idea to get a few wild cards every now and then so that you can prepare for the Final Showdown; if your deck is anti-jackpot in a game called Jackpot Payout, you may … not do so well.
  • That said, there are certain cards that are almost always worth taking. I’d highly recommend swiping some of the four-coin cards as soon as you see them, if for no other reason than denying your opponent getting them. If they work within your strategy, even better! Just make sure you actually have a plan in mind and aren’t just grabbing cards randomly; a stacked deck can work against you if you have too many different symbol types.
  • Keep in mind that a well-timed jackpot can save you, but a poorly-timed jackpot can really mess up your plans. Your cards get removed from play after a jackpot. This means if you have the perfect setup and you lose your ringer card to a different, smaller jackpot, there’s no going back. Similarly, you can actually lose your “Improve the Odds” card pretty quickly, since it’s a wild, and that will mess with your ability to thin the deck early in the game. With wilds, there’s not much you can do, but you may occasionally want to strategically discard certain cards so that you don’t use them before you want to.
  • Keep an eye on what your opponent is going for or getting rid of. If your opponent is removing certain symbols from their deck, they may be less likely to grab more cards with those symbols. That means you might be able to swoop some of the good ones (though I doubt any player would willingly leave you the four-coin card with the symbol you prefer, if they can avoid it).
  • The game can be over quicker than you’d expect. A few good turns, especially at lower player counts, might be all you need to run out the deck. Similarly, if a player has enough jackpots or enough card churn, they may empty most of their deck without realizing it, as well.
  • Thinning your deck can generally be a good idea, as it allows you to get rid of icons that you don’t want to see again. Don’t thin it so much that you activate the game end condition, but getting rid of one or two icon types may be helpful long-term, as it will let you focus on a smaller pool of icons (and potentially hit more jackpots as a result).
  • The dual-icon cards can help set up a fair number of jackpots, as can the wilds. You especially should prefer dual-icon cards where both icons work well in your deck; that will increase your odds significantly. Even if you miss it occasionally, that means you may potentially be able to get two pairs, which will allow you to take two cards (or even two special cards!).
  • Taking multiple cards may not be that helpful; make sure you’re keeping your plan in mind. Taking multiple cards isn’t always great; it may just be junk in your deck. Check the card abilities and think about how each card might provide its own utility in your deck moving forward. If you think the card helps you, take it; don’t just take cards so that you add more cards to your deck overall.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • I really like the theme. I’ve been playing a few casino-themed games this week (got some Burgle 2 in, as well), and I’m always here for a fun casino-themed game. I think the theme lends itself well to bright, colorful games that usually visually appeal to me. I think that the darker, shadier, corrupt casino stuff isn’t as much my speed, and thankfully, Jackpot Payout isn’t that.
  • The modularity of the sets is inspired, which can make for a lot of fun speculative options if they go that route. I like that they have different options that you can mix together and play with; it seems like having a few more different set types (especially ones that make the game more or less interactive, or play better with two)
  • Hitting a jackpot absolutely rules, as it should. It feels great to get a jackpot, even though you lose cards as a result. That’s a feature worth building an entire game around, and it partially feels like that’s what happened. Your whole game is mostly chasing that jackpot so you can win big, and the payoff (and subsequent payout) is huge. The jackpot makes players feel good, and that can be an important part of building engagement in your game.
  • I particularly like that you can hit an unfortunate jackpot which causes you to lose cards you’d otherwise prefer to keep. Even good luck can be bad! That happened to me once! It was great. I didn’t get much money and I lost some useful cards. It’s also a nice counter to players just taking coinless wilds every turn; it’s totally possible that they’ll all show up together and you’ll get a worthless jackpot! Frankly, that should be its own challenge.
  • I love the Final Showdown. I’m almost certain it can be frustrating if you end up losing to a player who performs a miracle during the Final Showdown, but I’m fresh off of watching like 5 seasons of Some Card Game Anime my housemate likes and so I can do nothing but cheer enthusiastically for the prospect of someone pulling off a combo worthy of the divine. It’s such a fun avenue for big game-changing outcomes that I’m just excited for it.
  • I’m increasingly a fan of these deckbuilders where all cards have the same cost. It makes the math on my turn so much easier. Abandon All Artichokes does it, Fort does it, and now Jackpot Payout does it. I understand why that’s not always great (it can mean that all cards must be the same “value” [though not always!], which can make powerful but expensive cards non-viable), but I think in light deckbuilders it works particularly well.
  • Plays surprisingly quickly. You really can see the game fly by if a player gets sufficiently good cards lined up or pulls off some big jackpots. I kinda like that, since it’s a fairly easy game to just play again, especially if you had bad luck the previous game.

Mehs

  • A few clarifications / examples of cards could go a long way. There can potentially be some confusion around whether a single wild symbol can be used to create two pairs (since it matches both of the other cards); we voted no. Predict Matches may be worth clarifying how the cards are revealed. We chose to make it “flip the top X cards off of the top of your deck”, but “reveal cards from your deck” can be interpreted to mean players may look through their deck and choose cards to reveal. It’s likely not, but some wording changes would help make this smoother.
  • While your luck in this game is certainly something you can influence, if you’re not a fan of luck in your deckbuilders, perhaps a slot machine-themed deckbuilder might not be your speed. This isn’t a problem for me, but it may be worth thinking about if you’re not looking for a deckbuilder where you can win big with the right cards and a bit of luck.

Cons

  • The game does pretty explicitly reward players who can remember the various types of numbers of icons in their deck and build towards that strategy. There’s a memory component to this game that can be frustrating for some players. I don’t mind it personally, but there are certainly cards that incentivize you remembering what cards are already in your deck. My best advice is always to tell players that they can (and should) look through their discard pile before they reshuffle, just so they have a sense of what’s coming. This isn’t usually as big of a problem with deckbuilders, but not having a “hand” can exacerbate this for some folks when they play.
  • At lower player counts the market can get kind of stale. This is just a result of some cards not necessarily being that exciting at two players (since they benefit from having more). Flush can help drain the market, but if it’s not coming up (or if it’s not in play), you do risk having a few turns go by where you may not be excited about any of the cards.

Overall: 8 / 10

Overall, Jackpot Payout is a lot of fun! I think that there’s something to be said for the category of games where something good happens to your opponent and you’re excited for them, and Vegas or not, seeing another player get a jackpot is exciting! It’s fun, I guess? And I think that’s smart design. Sure, there’s some luck to it, but fundamentally Jackpot Payout rewards players who can guide their deck along the path they’ve laid out for it, whether that’s by getting the icons they need or choosing violence against other players, depending on the cards. I think that’s nice. It’s definitely a simpler deckbuilder than, say, Dominion, but it honestly feels like it might be a nice next step after Abandon All Artichokes. They have similar aspects, right? They both have markets where cards don’t have an explicit cost, they’re both on the shorter game-length side, and they both want players to think about deck-thinning as a gameplay strategy. It’s just Jackpot Payout also wants you to be willing to bet it all on a big payout, even if that will cost you your best cards, so that you can get the money you need to win! That’s cool, I think. This does start to activate my ambition, a bit, in the sense that I start seeing other places I would like Jackpot Payout to go. I’d love a two-player high-stakes version, for instance, that raises the amount of money required to end the game and includes more aggressive cards (the most aggressive cards, right now, generally just mess with the next card on top of the deck; while that’s good for more than two players, it doesn’t offer much when you’re only getting to target one person). I think Jackpot Payout’s got a lot to offer, in that regard, as well, because as a game it fundamentally understands what it’s going for. It wants players to lose the main game and then win it all in the Final Showdown; that’s an experience the game actively tries to support. And I think that’s quite good! It may be frustrating if, for instance, you prefer your deckbuilders to be low-luck, but they already make Aeon’s End; go play that. Jackpot Payout’s all about the thrill of finally lining up the perfect hand, and I can’t help but enthusiastically agree that that rules. I’ve experienced it; it was great. If you’re looking for a deckbuilder that rewards your planning and your luck with big money, I mean, this is pretty explicitly that, so you might want to check out Jackpot Payout! I’ve certainly enjoyed it.


If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

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