#792 – Game of Hunt [Preview]

Base price: $XX.
1 – 6 players.
Play time: ~20 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Check it out on Kickstarter!
Logged plays: 3

Full disclosure: A preview copy of Game of Hunt was provided by Sweet Troll 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. 

We’re through an otherwise busy August, but the Kickstarters continue. There’s something peaceful about that. Nature is healing, yadda yadda. I think there are a few sprinkled throughout the rest of my year, from a few escape room games to a dim sum-themed title to who knows what I agreed to. I shouldn’t answer emails (or write) at 2AM, but here we are. In the spirit of that, let’s check out this next Kickstarter! It’s from a company called Sweet Troll Games, and it’s four games known as Game of Hunt!

In Game of Hunt, players have four different ways to play cooperatively. They can stop a dangerous trash monster, look for some magical mushrooms, clean up another planet, or even deal with an ancient monkey temple. To help keep track of things, the board and the pieces are all magnetic. That should make the tokens harder to lose, I’d hope. Will you be able to successfully complete all four games?

Contents

Setup

So these things are going to be game-specific, so rather than outlining them for each game, I’ll talk generally about how it works. You’ve got a bunch of different components:

And you’ve got a bunch of different games:

Each game has different setup instructions, but it will largely involve shuffling the cards, as well:

Deal them out to each player; each player should be sitting on one side of the game board, with the coordinates on the cards in the bottom-left corner, relative to them. This means that the arrows might not be pointing the same direction for all players, depending on where they sit and what cards they have. Follow the remaining setup instructions for your game and you’ll be good to start!

Yeah, the stone at G6 shouldn’t be there. I moved it after I took the photo.

Gameplay

Game of Hunt has four different games included, so I’ll give a light overview of the system and then chat a little about each game.

In Game of Hunt, players use movement cards to send their pawns around the board, usually in the pursuit of collecting magnetic cubes based on the game’s task. As they do, they’ll be playing movement arrows to move their pawn in the indicated direction. That said, the directions are relative to the player’s seated position, so the same card may move pawns in different directions.

Generally, players win when they’ve completed the game’s stated objective (usually collecting some or all of the cubes on the board). Players lose when the round tracker runs out of rounds!

Let’s talk about the games.

Trash Monster

In Trash Monster, players work to clean up the town and play with a lonely Trash Monster who keeps flying around and dumping garbage everywhere. Not a great look, but he can’t help it.

To play, players play movement cards to move around to spaces with trash cubes on them, and use the Hand cards to pick up the trash and remove it from the board. Players can also use a Hand card on the same space as the Trash Monster to play with it, forcing the Trash Monster to skip its next turn.

If the Trash Monster gets a turn, it reveals a card from the deck and moves in that direction, placing a trash cube on its new space (if it can).

Players win if they can successfully pick up all the trash cubes!

Mushroom Forest

In Mushroom Forest, players are mushroom hunting! But it can be challenging to grab magic mushrooms.

To play, players play movement cards to move around the board to spaces with mushroom cubes on them, and they use the Hand cards to attempt to pick up a mushroom. Doing so forces the player to roll a die. If they roll a 1 or 6, they’re teleported elsewhere and they don’t get the mushroom! Otherwise they pick it up and place it in the bag.

Instead of a monster’s turn, more mushrooms grow between player turns.

Players win when they pick up a number of mushrooms determined by their player count. I think, personally, that this is probably the easiest of the four games; there’s very little consequence to getting teleported other than being somewhere else.

Another Planet

In Another Planet, players are helping aliens gather resources on a strange new planet. It’s unfortunately windy, which can make this challenging.

Like the other games, players are moving around and picking up cubes. The trick, this time, is that after every turn, a queue of cards executes the next card in the queue, which causes the wind to blow. The wind is always coming from a specific direction, so it moves all pawns in that direction if it does happen. This can mess with your strategy, a bit, especially because the wind blows between every player’s turn.

Players win when they’ve picked up all of the resource cubes!

Monkey Temple

Monkey Temple is the last game in the collection, and it tasks players with trying to eliminate all the monkey statues in a lost temple.

As is to be expected with this game, players use movement cards to move and Hand cards to interact with cubes in some way. This time, the cubes are Monkey Statues, which have to be deactivated by playing a Hand card and a Movement card. The Movement Card must match the direction that the Monkey Statue is relative to the player, which is fun.

Between turns, the Monkey Statues move according to a set Statue Movement Deck, which is good! You can memorize the patterns and try to stop the statues.

Players win when they’ve eliminated all of the statues!

Player Count Differences

Generally, I’m a bit wary of this game at more than four players, since, fundamentally, there are only four sides to the play space. This means you’ll be doubling up somewhere just based on the pigeonhole principle. That’s not a huge issue, but if you’re looking for a totally unique play experience, that might gently steer you towards 2 – 4 players. That and the downtime between turns. Something happens between every turn in these games, so if you’re playing with five players, the game state will be significantly altered by the time the game gets back around to your turn again, which may make it challenging to plan ahead. The one nice thing about higher player counts, on the other hand, is that doubling up is a helpful way to teach a younger or less experienced player how to play the game, so if you’re playing with young kids you may want to keep someone on the same side of the board as them anyways. Given the audience I usually play with, we’ve preferred this at 2 – 3, however. I could see this going over well with more players if you’re primarily playing with kids, though!

Strategy

  • Save the teleport card for a key moment. There’s a nontrivial number of games where you can largely ignore a section of cubes or tokens for a large chunk of the game. The key, however, is that you need to make sure that someone gets the teleport card in order to make that happen. Then, that player can jump over to the spot on the board that needs cleaned up and hop right to it. Ideally, this happens before you need to shuffle the discard pile and make a new deck, so that the teleport card at least has a shot of being used again. This usually means that, at most, you’ll see two teleports per game, though, so make them count.
  • You’ll want to trade cards occasionally. Cards that seem useless might actually be truly useless, at least from your perspective. Giving those cards to another player can be a good way to set up another player for a good turn and potentially get some less-useless cards for yourself. That said, cycling cards into the discard pile is a good way to fish for extra hand cards or the teleport card.
  • Don’t discard the hand cards if you can avoid it! You usually need at least one in your hand. They’re good to have around, since you can use them to take actions in most games. As a result, you don’t necessarily want to get rid of them, even if you have too many. If you’ve got more than you need, consider trading them to a player without any to balance out, a bit.
  • For Trash Monster, it’s useful to have at least one character who is consistently placating the Trash Monster. Maybe two, if you can afford it! If you can keep the Trash Monster near the center of the board and consistently playing with other players, it won’t be dropping extra trash and you won’t have to risk it running off the board and teleporting. Just remember that every player can’t afford to spend time playing with the Trash Monster, so it will move at some point in the game.
  • In Mushroom Forest, getting teleported isn’t the worst thing, but you should be careful not to rely too much on discarding your movement cards; you may need ones that you weren’t expecting! This threw me off the first time; suddenly, I was on a very different part of the board and the movement cards I had held as part of my strategy were essentially garbage. That wasn’t an amazing feeling, but it was something I should have expected and could have planned around. So I’m trying to arm you with the knowledge I wish that I had.
  • With Another Planet, it’s good to look at the wind cards and “brace” yourself against an object that you can be blown into without shifting, too much. If you place yourself between a couple rocks, the wind may blow you around without moving you, since you can’t move into spaces with rocks in them. That may be a helpful way to try and maintain your position between turns so that you can continue picking up cubes when it comes around to you again. The challenge of higher player counts with Another Planet is that you’ll be being juggled by the wind quite a bit when it’s not your turn, so you may end up in a spot that’s less convenient for your team’s strategy.
  • For Monkey Temple, you should try to memorize the monkey statue movement deck. It’ll come in handy when you need to figure out where the statues are and where they can move to. You’ll essentially need to predict how the statues move so that you can be in the right spot, relative to them, in order to remove the statues entirely. Since you know how the cards will be ordered in the deck, try to just keep that in memory, where you can.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • The whole “magnetic pieces on a magnetized board so that pieces don’t get lost” is genius. This is kind of the game’s core thing, which is nice. The game’s targeting families with kids and trying to solve the “we keep losing pieces because tokens get thrown everywhere” problem, and magnetizing everything is a super good idea. Honestly, it even helps if you just bump the table and now everything doesn’t go everywhere. Should more games be magnetized? Probably, but it’s got some of its own challenges.
  • Cute themes for the various games, as well. They’ve got a wide variety of fantasy and sci-fi themes, which is nice. Good coverage for players that don’t necessarily like one or the other, but there’s more fantasy / adventure than sci-fi, theme-wise.
  • They’re colorful, too! I imagine that’s pretty engaging. I generally like colorful games, and I think that’s a wise move for a game targeted at families and kids.
  • The games play quickly, which I appreciate. They’re not terribly long games; maybe 20 to 30 minutes, tops? Again, I think that’s wise for family games. The turns themselves aren’t terribly long, either, which keeps the game short. Lots of quick turns.
  • I also like the relative directionality of the cards, where your position at the table affects what cards do what, for you. It reminds me a bit of Magic Maze, in a way? Magic Maze was sort of the opposite, where every card was absolutely positioned to the game’s “true north”, though. It plays with a similar part of your brain, which I enjoyed. I think this may be tough for younger players, so having a partner sitting on the same side of the table with them is a good call.
  • They include extra information on how to make the game easier or more difficult to better cater to who’s playing. In cooperative games, I just generally like the ability to make the game more challenging or easier when I’m playing with different players. For games targeted at kids, having these options makes the game a fair bit more compelling (and usable). You can grow the game with your kids (or, at least, see what the game needs in order for your kids to be ready for them), and I think that’s cool.

Mehs

  • Even with the magnets, there are still a lot of small pieces, and the magnets aren’t always perfect so that you can get multiple tokens on the same space. I imagine this is a production thing that will be improved post-prototype, or at least I hope it will be. Right now, it seems like there are magnets embedded in certain spaces on the board, and that’s not exactly precise enough to keep multiple tokens on the same space, if need be. But as a proof of concept, the game works pretty well.
  • Having that many magnetized components in a game adds a decent amount of physical weight to it. I know we talk sometimes about heavy games on What’s Eric Playing dot com, but this is a much more physically heavy game than its appearance would suggest. It’s not heavy to the point that it’s hard to carry; I just imagine that shipping a crate of these must be a nightmare.

Cons

  • There’s a little bit of variety between the games themselves, but there may not be enough for the games to feel like four unique, distinct experiences. They feel like four episodes in an anthology series, almost? Same actors, some new characters and scenarios. They kind of all have a different schtick, but the same blank cubes and same cards makes it hard to get fully immersed in the theme. It’s a trade-off, yeah? I assume this keeps the price down (at least down relative to having all-magnetic components), but it does take a smidge away from the game’s theme, which can be less ideal.
  • The luck element can be a huge boon or a punishing difficulty spike, depending on how the game shakes out. If, for instance, the teleport card gets randomly discarded between turns, that can be absolutely terrible for you. Similarly, if you end up not getting to use the teleport card before the discard pile is reshuffled into a new deck, that can also be a problem. But if the cubes are just spawning near where you are or you draw three hands in a row in Another Planet, you can be benefitted pretty well by that! The problem is, there’s not really a specific way to control those outcomes, since they’re mostly determined by the cards and how they end up flipping. That said, the luck element may not be a huge effect for a number of folks in this population.

Overall: 7 / 10

Overall, I think Game of Hunt is fun. I’d say it’s probably best targeted at its younger audience (and families that support them), but it’s certainly doing a fine job hitting those high notes. My biggest gripe is that it sometimes seems unfocused; in trying to have four distinct games within one package, the games start to blur together and they feel less distinct. That said, they’re all pretty light, so it may just be difficult to differentiate between four light games that share similar mechanics and largely use the same components. I think this may matter to me more than it’ll likely matter to the target audience, though? They’ve got fairly different themes and pretty fun art and colors, so that might be enough to distinguish them. Plus, having the games be fairly similar mechanically makes the entire game system easier to learn ( / extend), which may be a further boon for the folks making the game? Perhaps I’m overthinking this. I think when I’m looking at family games, I’m generally most excited for games that have exciting and goofy dexterity mechanics (like ICECOOL or Catch the Moon) or games that are an excellent gateway into more complex board game mechanics (like Abandon All Artichokes). Game of Hunt isn’t really either of those, per se, but it’s a pleasant spatial game in its own right, so I still had a good time with it. I think I’m just really impressed by how smart having a fully-magnetic game is that isn’t one of those crappy travel set board games that I grew up with in the 90s or whatever. Making the wooden cubes magnetic just gives the game a bit of visual clout that makes me take it a bit more seriously. If you are looking for a game that you can play with the family and you don’t want to worry about lost pieces, Game of Hunt might be a good fit!


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