Full disclosure: A preview copy of Overstocked was provided by Play for Keeps. 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.
I think we’re now looking at a steady-state of Kickstarters for the next few months. Not a ton, not an overwhelming deluge, but a few drips here and there, maybe every month or so? I’m still looking through my timetables. Either way, I enjoy the odd Kickstarter here and there, though I hate what they do for me, scheduling-wise. It’s just the nature of having deadlines, I suppose. But for non-Kickstarter reviews, you’d be surprised how many games just get shunted up or down weeks, purely on a “what do I think I want to have as a ‘Published Slate’ at 10PM on a Sunday” whim. It’s definitely some energy to bring to the space, but what can you do. Either way, I’ve had Overstocked a while (as you might notice, the box has newer art than mine), but I’ve been excited about it since I first heard about it. Let’s see what it’s got going on!
In Overstocked, it’s the 90s. While you’re adjusting to that, you’ve got toys to warehouse! You need to keep the most popular items in stock while keeping track of the general hype. If you have too little stock, you’re missing out on the big wave of popularity! If a toy becomes too popular, it’s going to peak and the value of it will come crashing down. You’ve got to manage your stock while trying to keep your opponents out of business if you want to win big in the toy game. Do you have what it takes to weather the rough seas of 90s toy crazes? Or will you end up overstocked and out of business?
Not much setup! Shuffle the cards!
Deal each player 6. Flip one card face up in front of every player to form their starting Warehouse, and flip one more card face-up into the center to form the Popularity. Set aside the score sheet, for now:
You should be ready to start!
This one plays pretty quickly, too. Your goal is to score points by having the right toys at the right time. Just be careful! Overstocking the wrong toys can leave you with a bunch of last year’s popular item, and nobody wants that.
A game of Overstocked is played over six rounds. To start each round, every player chooses a card from their hand and plays it face-down. Once every player has chosen a card, reveal them all. The cards have numbers on them, and players will take their turn in order of increasing card value.
On a player’s turn, they may place their chosen card into the Popularity in the center or their personal Warehouse in front of them. When they do, they must place the card so that it is covering one or two visible crates on a card or cards below. There are some empty spaces on cards, but they don’t count towards the visible crates that need to be covered up. Players can rotate cards as needed, but due to OSHA regulations, they cannot place a card such that it crushes a worker on that space. You’re not Amazon. After all players have played a card, the round ends, and players begin a new round by selecting a card from their hand.
After six rounds, scoring begins! For each toy, players should count the largest orthogonally-connected set of crates of that type in both the Popularity and in their Warehouse. Their score for that toy is the two numbers multiplied together. Just be careful! The toy with the largest connected area in the Popularity scores negative points. If there’s a tie for largest connected area in the Popularity, the toy with the most total crates of that type scores negative. If they’re still tied, players can just pick which one scores negative.
Total the scores, and the player with the most points wins!
In the Advanced Variant, there’s a new wrinkle! For each player, the toy with the largest connected area in their Warehouse scores half points (rounded down). Note that this is independent of whether or not the toy scores negative or positive points. If there’s a tie for largest connected area in the Warehouse, the toy with the most total crates of that type scores half points. If they’re still tied, players can just pick which one scores half points.
Player Count Differences
In a bit of a rare shift, I’m actually a bigger fan of Overstocked at higher player counts. The big point of this game is that it’s dynamic, right? So, as a result, it plays better when there are more players feeding into the Popularity. It means that you can spend some time focusing on your Warehouse without having to play to the Popularity to drive the game. Plus, it means that the Popularity can change somewhat drastically, which makes for a (potentially) more exciting game. It can turn against you pretty quickly if players decide that they hate what you’re putting in your Warehouse, but them’s the breaks, sometimes. Personally, these kinds of games most often appeal to me as solo games, rather than strictly competitive games, which may be why I feel like I’m looking for something else from Overstocked, but even then, I’d probably prefer the more hyperactive and frenetic play that you’ll see at higher player counts. At two, you have pretty good control of just about everything, since there’s only one other person playing cards (and they’re not always playing cards to the center). It ends up feeling a bit flat, because there’s just not enough movement happening in a game. At even four, you’ve got twice as many cards in play, so the Popularity is bigger, the Warehouses are bigger, and more is happening every round. I prefer that, honestly. As a result, I lean towards the higher end of the player count spectrum, here. I am excited to see what the solo mode entails, however. Hopefully that’ll draw me the same way that other similar games (like Sprawlopolis) do.
- Try to make your biggest plays last, or once they can no longer be effectively blocked. If the Popularity is such that your most valuable toy is never going to turn negative, then feel free to boost your Warehouse stores. Otherwise, hold on to the final round to drop the biggest boosts into your Warehouse, otherwise your opponents may see that as an invitation to tank that toy in the Popularity and cost you a ton of points. Workers placed appropriately in the Popularity may help, but make sure that you’re not at risk for your opponents adding onto that toy type and turning the value negative.
- Keep an eye on what other players are doing on their turns; that may inform where you place your next card. This is generally a good idea for games where the player order is dynamic, but it particularly holds true, here. You may have had designs on augmenting a toy’s presence in the Popularity, but now that your opponent has done that as well before you could, it no longer makes sense to do so. This can happen a lot if you’re worried about that toy type going negative, for instance. If that starts happening, then instead just shift your focus to the Warehouse. Similarly, you may have wanted to place your cards in a certain configuration, but now it might be worth cutting your losses if your ideal toy has turned negative. You can remain flexible based on what your opponents do before you get a chance to act, and maintaining that flexibility is key to doing well in this game.
- The Popularity can shift pretty drastically; make sure you’re set up so that it can’t turn against you. I generally try to rally other players to make a toy I don’t want the most-represented toy in the Popularity, so that I don’t take a huge penalty, but that can occasionally end up adversarial if another player has that toy in their Warehouse in sufficient supply. If you’re fighting another player head-on, you run the risk that they’ll try to turn your prized toys negative, which isn’t great, either. Setting your Warehouse up such that you can cut large sections off if need be is a good idea, but it may also be worth trying to place Workers such that whatever you want the most overrepresented toy to be cannot be easily changed.
- Don’t spend all your time in the Popularity, either. You fundamentally need cards in your Warehouse to score points, since that’s kind of the core gameplay loop, so don’t spend all your time setting up plans and schemes in the Popularity if it’s not going to meaningfully translate into points. Your opponents will build up the Popularity some; just make sure that the work they’re doing isn’t directly undermining yours and you should generally be fine? No hard guarantees, but it should be mostly okay.
- It’s possible to completely remove the most popular item in the Popularity from your Warehouse, but it’s difficult. May not be worth it? It’s definitely impossible if you’ve got a Worker on one of those crates, but if not, it should be doable with enough work. The question really is whether or not all that work is worth it. It might be! If, like in the photos in this review, you’ve got players all collectively clowning on the Furby-esque toys (as they should), clearing your entire Warehouse of Furby-esque toys might be enough to win (and it was!). You’re suddenly not taking a massive penalty that everyone else had taken for granted. However, it’s also possible that investing the time and energy into covering all of those spaces (rather than just leaving yourself with 1) can be better spent on building up other, more lucrative toys. It’s really going to just come down to trade-offs, and balancing that is the tactical crux of this game.
- Use the Workers to make the Popularity harder to change drastically. Placing Workers means that spaces are no longer able to be covered, but they can also be used to make big changes harder to make. You can potentially place a card such that it covers two crates but splits a huge group of crates into two smaller groups, changing around the Popularity, yeah? If Workers are on those spaces, it suddenly becomes much more challenging to do (in that, it becomes impossible to do). You can leverage workers on cards to constrain your opponents’ changes to the Popularity, especially if those changes would negatively impact you and your score. Just be careful! Adding Workers to your Warehouse may make pivoting more difficult, should you need to remove certain items or change your investment in others.
- The Advanced Variant rewards players having a bunch of everything, rather than one big group of one item. In the Advanced Variant, you lose half the points you would have otherwise earned (or lost!) for the biggest group of items in your Warehouse. Keep that in mind before you start bulking up one item type, otherwise you’ll risk losing a chunk of points. One point that I will note is that I don’t think it’s a good idea to try and make your “Scores Negative” item your largest section of your Warehouse. Yes, it reduces your penalty by half, but it also means that you’ve used a significant portion of your Warehouse space on garbage, even if the garbage is now less costly. Focus on earning points rather than reducing the number of negative points you get.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love the theme, here. It’s very nostalgic, though I wish we had fun 90s names for all the stuff here. I’ve been calling them by their rough real-life equivalents, but I would love some fun fake names. That said, the Furby-adjacent things are still very creepy, which I think is good. Plus, as a child of the 90s, I was very into garbage 90s trends, so I owned several of most of these things at one point or another. Though I think the Furby was my sister’s; even as a child I had the good sense not to mess with eldritch creations.
- The box art is also super good! Like I said, the Furby-adjacent things are creepy. That speaks well of the artist, who managed to capture a whole generation of nightmares. Archie Edwards did great work, here. I really love how it all looks, and the latest color scheme is also an exciting update.
- The gameplay cycle is pretty interesting. I like both that player order is determined by the cards and that all cards are revealed at the same time. It means that I may be able to change my strategy depending on how players affect their own Warehouses or the Popularity, and I can even potentially mitigate other players’ moves because of my turn order. It reminds me a bit of Honshu, but with a shared central area, which is fun. That reminds me that I haven’t played Hokkaido in a while; that game was a lot of fun, too.
- Plays pretty quickly! The fact that it’s only six rounds means that players can really just bust out a quick game while they’re waiting for something else, which is good. I think it also helps that the rules are fairly short and concise, so the game’s decently easy to explain.
- Pretty portable, as well. It hardly even needs a box! You can really just throw the cards into a Quiver (especially if you laminate the score sheet) and then you’re essentially good to go. Smaller games like this are great as things start to reopen, because I’m largely just taking some games with me wherever I head, just in case. And this is a good “just in case” game, in terms of weight, complexity, and portability.
- The advanced variant is interesting. I like that it doesn’t incentivize players just hoarding one type and then waiting until the end of the game to boost the popularity of that type. Forcing players to try to manage two types of toys (or just risk the half points) is a neat set of trade-offs.
- I’m excited for mini expansions and a solo mode! I’m enthusiastic about ways that this game can be made a bit more complex, but I’m mostly excited for the solo mode. These kinds of games lend themselves well to puzzley gameplay, and I’d like to see what they do with a solo version. I’m hoping it will be another fun puzzle in the vein of the Button Shy wallet games I really like for solo play, but we’ll see.
- It’s a bit frustrating when you hit a state in the Popularity where you can’t really impact certain item types. This is a problem you might see at the highest end of the player count spectrum or just a problem that emerges towards the end of the game, depending on how workers are placed, but since you can only cover one or two crates, there may come a time in which a certain item type is walled off and can’t be increased (or really meaningfully decreased) before the end of the game. It’s not a huge deal, but it can be a bit annoying, especially if you were going for that or wanted to block an opponent.
- I’ll be interested to see what the final art and the final card art look like. I love the box art, but the card art doesn’t quite speak to me all the way. From a distance, it kind of looks like boxes on squares (which, I get, it is), but I’d love to see more of the toys around, if possible. Maybe that’ll happen? Who knows.
- At two, there aren’t quite enough cards going into the Popularity or into warehouses for the game to feel super dynamic. I’m not sure if it would be helped by players playing more cards or just having extra rounds in the game, but having more cards available is generally good for this, and at two, there just don’t seem to be enough cards in play for the game to feel that exciting, to me. The other problem is that having so few cards means that the game can change pretty drastically at the drop of a hat, which may be good or bad, depending on how it changes. I like a bit more robustness against that kind of massive paradigm shift, and I’m just not seeing that in the two-player game. Hopefully this will be addressed by mini-expansions or a variant or something, especially since two players is my primary gaming group, these days.
Overall: 7 / 10
Overall, I had fun with Overstocked! I think the major gripe I have with it is that the two-player gameplay fell decently flat, for me, and so much of my gaming is at two that I really need a game that says “2 – X” players to feel super engaging for me, at two. That said, at higher player counts I enjoyed the game considerably more, so I’m still positive on Overstocked as a whole. It does a lot of things I like, which is helpful. I really like the theme, as players are metaphorical boats on the endless currents of 90s toy crazes, getting pulled every which way. And that’s cute. The spatial-based gameplay also appeals to me a lot, as well. I think that perhaps I wanted this to feel a bit more like Sprawlopolis than it ended up feeling, for me, and that’s just my own inherent bias, but I still found the gameplay engaging. I particularly like the dual purpose of the cards between changing the Popularity and changing your own Warehouse. It’s interesting, since you need to do both but ideally would like to rely on your opponents to just do what you want. The active changes versus the passive acceptance of your opponents’ machinations really drive the game forward, and having the cards themselves decide the order of player moves is particularly sharp. A lot here works well. I’m very excited to see what the mini-expansions add, as I think adding a smidge more complexity to the game might actually be a net positive, and a solo mode seems directly up my alley. So, looking forward to that. If you’re a fan of 90s nostalgia, you’re looking for a quick and puzzley game, or you desperately fear Furbys (maybe … not this one), you might enjoy Overstocked! I’ll be interested in seeing what gets added to the game when it’s finalized.